Wei Yingwu

SETTING SAIL ON THE YANGZI

TO SECRETARY YUAN

Wistful, away from my friends and kin,

Through mist and fog I float and float

With the sail that bears me toward Loyang.

In Yangzhou trees linger bell-notes of evening,

Marking the day and the place of our parting….

When shall we meet again and where?

…Destiny is a boat on the waves,

Borne to and fro, beyond our will.


Wei Yingwu

A POEM TO A TAOIST HERMIT

CHUANJIAO MOUNTAIN

My office has grown cold today;

And I suddenly think of my mountain friend

Gathering firewood down in the valley

Or boiling white stones for potatoes in his hut….

I wish I might take him a cup of wine

To cheer him through the evening storm;

But in fallen leaves that have heaped the bare slopes,

How should I ever find his footprints!


Wei Yingwu

Out of the east you visit me,

With the rain of Baling still on your clothes,

I ask you what you have come here for;

You say: “To buy an ax for cutting wood in the mountains”

…Hidden deep in a haze of blossom,

Swallow fledglings chirp at ease

As they did when we parted, a year ago….

How grey our temples have grown since them!


Wei Yingwu

MOORING AT TWILIGHT IN YUYI DISTRICT

 

Furling my sail near the town of Huai,

I find for harbour a little cove

Where a sudden breeze whips up the waves.

The sun is growing dim now and sinks in the dusk.

People are coming home. The bright mountain-peak darkens.

Wildgeese fly down to an island of white weeds.

…At midnight I think of a northern city-gate,

And I hear a bell tolling between me and sleep.


Wei Yingwu

EAST OF THE TOWN

 

From office confinement all year long,

I have come out of town to be free this morning

Where willows harmonize the wind

And green hills lighten the cares of the world.

I lean by a tree and rest myself

Or wander up and down a stream.

…Mists have wet the fragrant meadows;

A spring dove calls from some hidden place.

…With quiet surroundings, the mind is at peace,

But beset with affairs, it grows restless again….

Here I shall finally build me a cabin,

As Tao Qian built one long ago.

Yuan Jie

TO THE TAX-COLLECTORS

AFTER THE BA

NDITS RETREAT

In the year Kuimao the bandits from Xiyuan entered Daozhou, set fire, raided, killed, and looted. The whole district was almost ruined. The next year the bandits came again and, attacking the neighbouring prefecture, Yong, passed this one by. It was not because we were strong enough to defend ourselves, but, probably, because they pitied us. And how now can these commissioners bear to impose extra taxes? I have written this poem for the collectors’ information.

I still remember those days of peace —

Twenty years among mountains and forests,

The pure stream running past my yard,

The caves and valleys at my door.

Taxes were light and regular then,

And I could sleep soundly and late in the morning-

Till suddenly came a sorry change.

…For years now I have been serving in the army.

When I began here as an official,

The mountain bandits were rising again;

But the town was so small it was spared by the thieves,

And the people so poor and so pitiable

That all other districts were looted

And this one this time let alone.

…Do you imperial commissioners

Mean to be less kind than bandits?

The people you force to pay the poll

Are like creatures frying over a fire.

And how can you sacrifice human lives,

Just to be known as able collectors? —

…Oh, let me fling down my official seal,

Let me be a lone fisherman in a small boat

And support my family on fish and wheat

And content my old age with rivers and lakes!


Wei Yingwu

ENTERTAINING LITERARY MEN IN MY

OFFICIAL RESIDENCE ON A RAINY DAY

 

Outside are insignia, shown in state;

But here are sweet incense-clouds, quietly ours.

Wind and rain, coming in from sea,

Have cooled this pavilion above the lake

And driven the feverish heat away

From where my eminent guests are gathered.

…Ashamed though I am of my high position

While people lead unhappy lives,

Let us reasonably banish care

And just be friends, enjoying nature.

Though we have to go without fish and meat,

There are fruits and vegetables aplenty.

…We bow, we take our cups of wine,

We give our attention to beautiful poems.

When the mind is exalted, the body is lightened

And feels as if it could float in the wind

…Suzhou is famed as a centre of letters;

And all you writers, coming here,

Prove that the name of a great land

Is made by better things than wealth.

Qiwu Qian

A BOAT IN SPRING ON RUOYA LAKE

Thoughtful elation has no end:

Onward I bear it to whatever come.

And my boat and I, before the evening breeze

Passing flowers, entering the lake,

Turn at nightfall toward the western valley,

Where I watch the south star over the mountain

And a mist that rises, hovering soft,

And the low moon slanting through the trees;

And I choose to put away from me every worldly matter

And only to be an old man with a fishing-pole.


Chang Jian

AT WANG CHANGLIN’ S RETREAT

 

Here, beside a clear deep lake,

You live accompanied by clouds;

Or soft through the pine the moon arrives

To be your own pure-hearted friend.

You rest under thatch in the shadow of your flowers,

Your dewy herbs flourish in their bed of moss.

Let me leave the world. Let me

alight, like you,

On your western mountain with phoenixes and cranes.


Cen Can

ASCENDING THE PAGODA AT THE TEMPLE OF KIND

FAVOUR WITH GAO SHI AND XUE JU

 

The pagoda, rising abruptly from earth,

Reaches to the very Palace of Heaven….

Climbing, we seem to have left the world behind us,

With the steps we look down on hung from space.

It overtops a holy land

And can only have been built by toil of the spirit.

Its four sides darken the bright sun,

Its seven stories cut the grey clouds;

Birds fly down beyond our sight,

And the rapid wind below our hearing;

Mountain-ranges, toward the east,

Appear to be curving and flowing like rivers;

Far green locust-trees line broad roads

Toward clustered palaces and mansions;

Colours of autumn, out of the west,

Enter advancing through the city;

And northward there lie, in five graveyards,

Calm forever under dewy green grass,

Those who know life’s final meaning

Which all humankind must learn.

…Henceforth I put my official hat aside.

To find the Eternal Way is the only happiness.

 

IN SUMMER AT THE SOUTH PAVILION

THINKING OF XING

The mountain-light suddenly fails in the west,

In the east from the lake the slow moon rises.

I loosen my hair to enjoy the evening coolness

And open my window and lie down in peace.

The wind brings me odours of lotuses,

And bamboo-leaves drip with a music of dew….

I would take up my lute and I would play,

But, alas, who here would understand?

And so I think of you, old friend,

O troubler of my midnight dreams !


Meng Haoran

AT THE MOUNTAIN-LODGE OF THE BUDDHIST PRIEST YE

WAITING IN VAIN FOR MY FRIEND DING

 

Now that the sun has set beyond the western range,

Valley after valley is shadowy and dim….

And now through pine-trees come the moon and the chill of evening,

And my ears feel pure with the sound of wind and water

Nearly all the woodsmen have reached home,

Birds have settled on their perches in the quiet mist….

And still — because you promised — I am waiting for you, waiting,

Playing lute under a wayside vine.


Wang Changling

WITH MY BROTHER AT THE SOUTH STUDY

THINKING IN THE MOONLIGHT OF VICE-PREFECT

CUI IN SHANYIN

 

Lying on a high seat in the south study,

We have lifted the curtain-and we see the rising moon

Brighten with pure light the water and the grove

And flow like a wave on our window and our door.

It will move through the cycle, full moon and then crescent again,

Calmly, beyond our wisdom, altering new to old.

…Our chosen one, our friend, is now by a limpid river —

Singing, perhaps, a plaintive eastern song.

He is far, far away from us, three hundred miles away.

And yet a breath of orchids comes along the wind.


Qiu Wei

AFTER MISSING THE RECLUSE

ON THE WESTERN MOUNTAIN

 

To your hermitage here on the top of the mountain

I have climbed, without stopping, these ten miles.

I have knocked at your door, and no one answered;

I have peeped into your room, at your seat beside the table.

Perhaps you are out riding in your canopied chair,

Or fishing, more likely, in some autumn pool.

Sorry though I am to be missing you,

You have become my meditation —

The beauty of your grasses, fresh with rain,

And close beside your window the music of your pines.

I take into my being all that I see and hear,

Soothing my senses, quieting my heart;

And though there be neither host nor guest,

Have I not reasoned a visit complete?

…After enough, I have gone down the mountain.

Why should I wait for you any longer?

Wang Wei

A GREEN STREAM

I have sailed the River of Yellow Flowers,

Borne by the channel of a green stream,

Rounding ten thousand turns through the mountains

On a journey of less than thirty miles….

Rapids hum over heaped rocks;

But where light grows dim in the thick pines,

The surface of an inlet sways with nut-horns

And weeds are lush along the banks.

…Down in my heart I have always been as pure

As this limpid water is….

Oh, to remain on a broad flat rock

And to cast a fishing-line forever!

 

 


Wang Wei

A FARM-HOUSE ON THE WEI RIVER

 

In the slant of the sun on the country-side,

Cattle and sheep trail home along the lane;

And a rugged old man in a thatch door

Leans on a staff and thinks of his son, the herdboy.

There are whirring pheasants? full wheat-ears,

Silk-worms asleep, pared mulberry-leaves.

And the farmers, returning with hoes on their shoulders,

Hail one another familiarly.

…No wonder I long for the simple life

And am sighing the old song, Oh, to go Back Again!

 

 


 

Wang Wei

THE BEAUTIFUL XI SHI

 

Since beauty is honoured all over the Empire,

How could Xi Shi remain humbly at home? —

Washing clothes at dawn by a southern lake —

And that evening a great lady in a palace of the north:

Lowly one day, no different from the others,

The next day exalted, everyone praising her.

No more would her own hands powder her face

Or arrange on her shoulders a silken robe.

And the more the King loved her, the lovelier she looked,

Blinding him away from wisdom.

…Girls who had once washed silk beside her

Were kept at a distance from her chariot.

And none of the girls in her neighbours’ houses

By pursing their brows could copy her beauty.


Meng Haoran

ON CLIMBING ORCHID MOUNTAIN

IN THE AUTUMN TO ZHANG

 

On a northern peak among white clouds

You have found your hermitage of peace;

And now, as I climb this mountain to see you,

High with the wildgeese flies my heart.

The quiet dusk might seem a little sad

If this autumn weather were not so brisk and clear;

I look down at the river bank, with homeward-bound villagers

Resting on the sand till the ferry returns;

There are trees at the horizon like a row of grasses

And against the river’s rim an island like the moon

I hope that you will come and meet me, bringing a basket of wine

And we’ll celebrate together the Mountain Holiday.

 

 

Du Fu

This cloud, that has drifted all day through the sky,

May, like a wanderer, never come back….

Three nights now I have dreamed of you —

As tender, intimate and real as though I were awake.

And then, abruptly rising to go,

You told me the perils of adventure

By river and lake-the storms, the wrecks,

The fears that are borne on a little boat;

And, here in my doorway, you rubbed your white head

As if there were something puzzling you.

…Our capital teems with officious people,

While you are alone and helpless and poor.

Who says that the heavenly net never fails?

It has brought you ill fortune, old as you are.

…A thousand years’ fame, ten thousand years’ fame-

What good, when you are dead and gone.


Wang Wei

AT PARTING

 

I dismount from my horse and I offer you wine,

And I ask you where you are going and why.

And you answer: “I am discontent

And would rest at the foot of the southern mountain.

So give me leave and ask me no questions.

White clouds pass there without end.”


Wang Wei

TO QIWU QIAN BOUND HOME

AFTER FAILING IN AN EXAMINATION

 

In a happy reign there should be no hermits;

The wise and able should consult together….

So you, a man of the eastern mountains,

Gave up

 

 

 

your life of picking herbs

And came all the way to the Gate of Gold —

But you found your devotion unavailing.

…To spend the Day of No Fire on one of the southern rivers,

You have mended your spring clothes here in these northern cities.

I pour you the farewell wine as you set out from the capital —

Soon I shall be left behind here by my bosomfriend.

In your sail-boat of sweet cinnamon-wood

You will float again toward your own thatch door,

Led along by distant trees

To a sunset shining on a far-away town.

…What though your purpose happened to fail,

Doubt not that some of us can hear high music.

 

Wang Wei

A GREEN STREAM

 

I have sailed the River of Yellow Flowers,

Borne by the channel of a green stream,

Rounding ten thousand turns through the mountains

On a journey of less than thirty miles….

Rapids hum over heaped rocks;

But where light grows dim in the thick pines,

The surface of an inlet sways with nut-horns

And weeds are lush along the banks.

…Down in my heart I have always been as pure

As this limpid water is….

Oh, to remain on a broad flat rock

And to cast a fishing-line forever!


Wang Wei

A FARM-HOUSE ON THE WEI RIVER

 

In the slant of the sun on the country-side,

Cattle and sheep trail home along the lane;

And a rugged old man in a thatch door

Leans on a staff and thinks of his son, the herdboy.

There are whirring pheasants? full wheat-ears,

Silk-worms asleep, pared mulberry-leaves.

And the farmers, returning with hoes on their shoulders,

Hail one another familiarly.

…No wonder I long for the simple life

And am sighing the old song, Oh, to go Back Again!


Meng Haoran

AT THE MOUNTAIN-LODGE OF THE BUDDHIST PRIEST YE

WAITING IN VAIN FOR MY FRIEND DING

 

Now that the sun has set beyond the western range,

Valley after valley is shadowy and dim….

And now through pine-trees come the moon and the chill of evening,

And my ears feel pure with the sound of wind and water

Nearly all the woodsmen have reached home,

Birds have settled on their perches in the quiet mist….

And still — because you promised — I am waiting for you, waiting,

Playing lute under a wayside vine.


Lying on a high seat in the south study,

We have lifted the curtain-and we see the rising moon

Brighten with pure light the water and the grove

And flow like a wave on our window and our door.

It will move through the cycle, full moon and then crescent again,

Calmly, beyond our wisdom, altering new to old.

…Our chosen one, our friend, is now by a limpid river —

Singing, perhaps, a plaintive eastern song.

He is far, far away from us, three hundred miles away.

And yet a breath of orchids comes along the wind.

Du Fu

It is almost as hard for friends to meet

As for the morning and evening stars.

Tonight then is a rare event,

Joining, in the candlelight,

Two men who were young not long ago

But now are turning grey at the temples.

…To find that half our friends are dead

Shocks us, burns our hearts with grief.

We little guessed it would be twenty years

Before I could visit you again.

When I went away, you were still unmarried;

But now these boys and girls in a row

Are very kind to their father’s old friend.

They ask me where I have been on my journey;

And then, when we have talked awhile,

They bring and show me wines and dishes,

Spring chives cut in the night-rain

And brown rice cooked freshly a special way.

…My host proclaims it a festival,

He urges me to drink ten cups —

But what ten cups could make me as drunk

As I always am with your love in my heart?

…Tomorrow the mountains will separate us;

After tomorrow-who can say?

All he can see is the smile of the new love,

While the old love weeps unheard.

The brook was pure in its mountain source,

But away from the mountain its waters darken.

…Waiting for her maid to come from selling pearls

For straw to cover the roof again,

She picks a few flowers, no longer for her hair,

And lets pine-needles fall through her fingers,

And, forgetting her thin silk sleeve and the cold,

She leans in the sunset by a tall bamboo.


Du Fu

SEEING Li Bai IN A DREAM II

 

This cloud, that has drifted all day through the sky,

May, like a wanderer, never come back….

Three nights now I have dreamed of you —

As tender, intimate and real as though I were awake.

And then, abruptly rising to go,

You told me the perils of adventure

By river and lake-the storms, the wrecks,

The fears that are borne on a little boat;

And, here in my doorway, you rubbed your white head

As if there were something puzzling you.

…Our capital teems with officious people,

While you are alone and helpless and poor.

Who says that the heavenly net never fails?

It has brought you ill fortune, old as you are.

…A thousand years’ fame, ten thousand years’ fame-

What good, when you are dead and gone.

Zhang Jiuling

Here, south of the Yangzi, grows a red orangetree.

All winter long its leaves are green,

Not because of a warmer soil,

But because its’ nature is used to the cold.

Though it might serve your honourable guests,

You leave it here, far below mountain and river.

Circumstance governs destiny.

Cause and effect are an infinite cycle.

You plant your peach-trees and your plums,

You forget the shade from this other tree.


 

Li Bai

From a pot of wine among the flowers

I drank alone. There was no one with me —

Till, raising my cup, I asked the bright moon

To bring me my shadow and make us three.

Alas, the moon was unable to drink

And my shadow tagged me vacantly;

But still for a while I had these friends

To cheer me through the end of spring….

I sang. The moon encouraged me.

I danced. My shadow tumbled after.

As long as I knew, we were boon companions.

And then I was drunk, and we lost one another.

…Shall goodwill ever be secure?

I watch the long road of the River of Stars.


Li Bai

Down the blue mountain in the evening,

Moonlight was my homeward escort.

Looking back, I saw my path

Lie in levels of deep shadow….

I was passing the farm-house of a friend,

When his children called from a gate of thorn

And led me twining through jade bamboos

Where green vines caught and held my clothes.

And I was glad of a chance to rest

And glad of a chance to drink with my friend….

We sang to the tune of the wind in the pines;

And we finished our songs as the stars went down,

When, I being drunk and my friend more than happy,

Between us we forgot the world.

TO QIWU QIAN BOUND HOME AFTER FAILING IN AN EXAMINATION

Wang Wei

In a happy reign there should be no hermits;
The wise and able should consult together….
So youa man of the eastern mountains

Gave up your life of picking herbs
And came all the way to the Gate of Gold —
But you found your devotion unavailing.
…To spend the Day of No Fire on one of the southern rivers

You have mended your spring clothes here in these northern cities.
I pour you the farewell wine as you set out from the capital —
Soon I shall be left behind here by my bosomfriend.
In your sail-boat of sweet cinnamon-wood
You will float again toward your own thatch door

Led along by distant trees
To a sunset shining on a far-away town.
…What though your purpose happened to fail

Doubt not that some of us can hear high music.


AT PARTING
Wang Wei

I dismount from my horse and I offer you wine

And I ask you where you are going and why.
And you answer: “I am discontent
And would rest at the foot of the southern mountain.
So give me leave and ask me no questions.
White clouds pass there without end.”


A GREEN STREAM

Wang Wei

I have sailed the River of Yellow Flowers

Borne by the channel of a green stream

Rounding ten thousand turns through the mountains
On a journey of less than thirty miles….
Rapids hum over heaped rocks;
But where light grows dim in the thick pines

The surface of an inlet sways with nut-horns
And weeds are lush along the banks.
…Down in my heart I have always been as pure
As this limpid water is….
Ohto remain on a broad flat rock

And to cast a fishing-line forever!


A FARM-HOUSE ON THE WEI RIVER
Wang Wei

In the slant of the sun on the country-side

Cattle and sheep trail home along the lane;
And a rugged old man in a thatch door
Leans on a staff and thinks of his sonthe herdboy.

There are whirring pheasants? full wheat-ears

Silk-worms asleeppared mulberry-leaves.

And the farmersreturning with hoes on their shoulders

Hail one another familiarly.
…No wonder I long for the simple life
And am sighing the old songOhto go Back Again!