Starting Up Three Gorges by Li Po

Azure heaven pinched between Wu Mountains,
riverwater keeps streaming down like this,

and with riverwater cascading so suddenly
away, we’ll never reach that azure heaven.

Three mornings we start up Huang-niu Gorge,
and three nights find we’ve gone nowhere.

Three mornings and three nights: for once
I’ve forgotten my hair turning white as silk.

translated by David Hinton

Listening to a Monk’s Ch’in Depths by Li Po

Carrying a ch’in cased in green silk, a monk
descended from O-mei Mountain in the west.

When he plays, even in a few first notes,
I hear the pines of ten thousand valleys,

and streams rinse my wanderer’s heart clean.
Echoes linger among temple frost-fall bells,

night coming unnoticed in emerald mountains,
autumn clouds banked up, gone dark and deep.

translated by David Hinton

A Friend Stays The Night by Li Po

Rinsing sorrows of a thousand forevers
away, we linger out a hundred jars of wine,

the clear night’s clarity filling small talk,
a lucid moon keeping us awake. And after

we’re drunk, we sleep in empty mountains,
all heaven our blanket, earth our pillow.

translated by David Hinton

Teasing Tu Fu by Li Po

Here on the summit of Fan-k’o Mountain, it’s Tu Fu
under a midday sun sporting his huge farmer’s hat.

How is it you’ve gotten so thin since we parted?
Must be all those poems you’ve been suffering over.

translated by David Hinton

To Send Far Away by Li Po

So much beauty home–flowers filled the house.
So much beauty gone–nothing but this empty bed,

your embroidered quilt rolled up, never used.
It’s been three years. Your scent still lingers,

your scent gone and yet never ending.
But now you’re gone, never to return,

thoughts of you yellow leaves falling,
white dew glistening on green moss.

translated by Daviid Hinton

Crooked River Meditation by Tu Fu

Each falling petal diminishes spring.
Ten thousand of them sadden me.

Spring flowers pale, and I grieve,
and ease my remorse with wine.

Kingfishers nest in the temple hall.
A stone unicorn adorns a royal grave.

Taking my pleasures where I find them,
I fill my cup again.

translated by Sam Hamill