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


;

Tune: “The Beautiful Lady Yu” by Li Yü

When will the last flower fall, the last moon fade?
So many sorrows lie behind.
Again last night the east wind filled my room—
O gaze not on the lost kingdom under the bright moon.

Still in her light my palace gleams as jade
(Only from bright cheeks beauty dies).
To know the sum of human suffering
Look at this river rolling eastward in the spring.

translated by Cyril Birch

Thoughts as I Lie Alone by Wang An-shih

Alone, a noon dove calling in spring
shade, I lie in a valley of forest quiet.

Scraps of cloud pass, scattering rain,
and I listen, late in life, to its clatter.

Eyes full of red and green confusion,
our sad times unraveling my legacy,

there’s no word near these thoughts
still as Bell Mountain in its slumber.

translated by David Hinton