For the Beach Gulls by Po Chü-I

The crush of age is turning my hair white
and I’m stuck with purple robes of office,

but if my body’s tangled in these fetters,
my heart abides where nothing’s begun.

Happening on wine, I’m drunk in no time,
and loving those mountains, I return late.

They don’t know who I am. Seeing official
falcon-banners flutter, beach gulls scatter.

translated by David Hinton

After Lunch by Po Chü-i

After eating lunch, I feel so sleepy.
Waking later, I sip two bowls of tea,

then notice shadows aslant, the sun
already low in the southwest again.

Joyful people resent fleeting days.
Sad ones can’t bear the slow years.

It’s those with no joy and no sorrow—
they trust whatever this life brings.

translated by David Hinton

Idle Song by Po Chü-i

After such painstaking study of empty-gate dharma,
everything life plants in the mind dissolved away:

there’s nothing left now but that old poetry demon.
A little wind or moon, and I’m chanting an idle song.

translated by David Hinton

Fallen Flowers by Li Shang-yin

From the tall pavilion the guests have all departed;
In the little garden flowers helter-skelter fly.
They fall at random on the winding path,
And travel far, setting off the setting sun.
Heartbroken, I cannot bear to sweep them away;
Gazing hard, I watch them till few are left.
Their fragrant heart, following spring, dies;
What they have earned are tears that wet one’s clothes.

translated by James J. Y. Liu

from Chamber Music by Li Shang-yin: a lament for his wife

I remember the spring of the year before last—
You said nothing but were full of sadness.
Now I have returned but you are gone!
The ornamented zither has lasted longer than you.
To-day, a pine at the bottom of the valley;
To-morrow, a po tree on the top of the hill!
I shall grieve till heaven and earth turn round,
Till we no longer recognize each other face to face!

translated by James J. Y. Liu