Death of My Horse by Wang An-Shih

In loving devotion to this old guest among pine and bamboo, it
slept nights beneath my east window how many years? A colt

come from heaven’s stable, it’s turned dragon now and set out,
leaving only a lame little donkey for my wanderings in idleness.

translated by David Hinton

Ten Years—Dead and Living Dim and Draw Apart by Su Tung-p’o

To the tune “Song of River City.” The year yi-mao, first month, twentieth day: recording a dream I had last night.

Ten years—dead and living dim and draw apart.
I don’t try to remember
but forgetting is hard.
Lonely grave a thousand miles off,
cold thoughts—where can I talk them out?
Even if we met you wouldn’t know me,
dust on my face,
hair like frost—

In a dream last night suddenly I was home.
By the window of the little room
you were combing your hair and making up.
You turned and looked, not speaking,
only lines of tears coursing down—
year after year will it break my heart?
The moonlit grave,
its stubby pines—

translated by Burton Watson

Baby’s First Bath by Su Dongpo

Parents raising children
hope they will become
intelligent and wise

but all my life
I’ve been the victim
of my own cleverness

all I want for my kids
is that they be
ignorant and stupid

so they can grow into
high-ranking nobles
free from misfortunes and suffering.

translated by Jiann I. Lin & David Young

Seeing the Year Out by Su Tung-p’o

Want to know what the passing year is like?
A snake slithering down a hole.
Half his long scales already hidden,
how to stop him from getting away?
Grab his tail and pull, you say?
Pull all you like–it does no good.
The children try hard not to doze,
chatter back and forth to stay awake,
but I say let dawn cocks keep still!
I fear the noise of watch drums pounding.
We’ve sat so long the lamp’s burned out.
I get up and look at the slanting Dipper.
How could I hope next year won’t come?
My mind shrinks from the failures it may bring.
I work to hold on to the night
while I can still brag I’m young.

translated by Burton Watson

from To the Tune of “The Court Fills with Fragrance” Part III by Su Dong-po

“Return to where I belong”
Where do I belong
Home near Min and Emei thousands of miles away
My hundred years nearly half gone
The coming days won’t be many
Suddenly I’ve seen another leap year at Huangzhou
All of my children
speak and sing in the local dialect
Friends from these mountains
with chicken and pork and festival wine
urge me to grow old at East Hill

What can I say
as I leave here
the events of our lives
come and go like a shuttle
I’ll soon be watching the autumn wind
stir crystal waves of the Luo
Lucky for these slender willows by my house
Thinking of me
no one will lop their tender branches
Pass the word
to elders along the Yangtze
sun my fishing cape now and then

translated by Yun Wang