Where, west of the Hill of Gold, the Tartar chieftain has halted

Cen Can

A SONG OF WHEEL TOWER IN FAREWELL TO GENERAL

FENG OF THE WESTERN EXPEDITION

On Wheel Tower parapets night-bugles are blowing,

Though the flag at the northern end hangs limp.

Scouts, in the darkness, are passing Quli,

Where, west of the Hill of Gold, the Tartar chieftain has halted

We can see, from the look-out, the dust and black smoke

Where Chinese troops are camping, north of Wheel Tower.

…Our flags now beckon the General farther west-

With bugles in the dawn he rouses his Grand Army;

Drums like a tempest pound on four sides

And the Yin Mountains shake with the shouts of ten thousand;

Clouds and the war-wind whirl up in a point

Over fields where grass-roots will tighten around white bones;

In the Dagger River mist, through a biting wind,

Horseshoes, at the Sand Mouth line, break on icy boulders.

…Our General endures every pain, every hardship,

Commanded to settle the dust along the border.

We have read, in the Green Books, tales of old days-

But here we behold a living man, mightier than the dead.


Cen Can

A SONG OF WHITE SNOW IN FAREWELL

TO FIELD-CLERK WU GOING HOME

 

The north wind rolls the white grasses and breaks them;

And the Eighth-month snow across the Tartar sky

Is like a spring gale, come up in the night,

Blowing open the petals of ten thousand peartrees.

It enters the pearl blinds, it wets the silk curtains;

A fur coat feels cold, a cotton mat flimsy;

Bows become rigid, can hardly be drawn

And the metal of armour congeals on the men;

The sand-sea deepens with fathomless ice,

And darkness masses its endless clouds;

But we drink to our guest bound home from camp,

And play him barbarian lutes, guitars, harps;

Till at dusk, when the drifts are crushing our tents

And our frozen red flags cannot flutter in the wind,

We watch him through Wheel-Tower Gate going eastward.

Into the snow-mounds of Heaven-Peak Road….

And then he disappears at the turn of the pass,

Leaving behind him only hoof-prints.

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That I am glad to be an exile here in this wild southland

Liu Zongyuan

DWELLING BY A STREAM

I had so long been troubled by official hat and robe

That I am glad to be an exile here in this wild southland.

I am a neighbour now of planters and reapers.

I am a guest of the mountains and woods.

I plough in the morning, turning dewy grasses,

And at evening tie my fisher-boat, breaking the quiet stream.

Back and forth I go, scarcely meeting anyone,

And sing a long poem and gaze at the blue sky.


Wang Changling

AT A BORDER-FORTRESS

Cicadas complain of thin mulberry-trees

In the Eighth-month chill at the frontier pass.

Through the gate and back again, all along the road,

There is nothing anywhere but yellow reeds and grasses

And the bones of soldiers from You and from Bing

Who have buried their lives in the dusty sand.

…Let never a cavalier stir you to envy

With boasts of his horse and his horsemanship


Wang Changling

UNDER A BORDER-FORTRESS

Drink, my horse, while we cross the autumn water!-

The stream is cold and the wind like a sword,

As we watch against the sunset on the sandy plain,

Far, far away, shadowy Lingtao.

Old battles, waged by those long walls,

Once were proud on all men’s tongues.

But antiquity now is a yellow dust,

Confusing in the grasses its ruins and white bones.


Li Bai

THE MOON AT THE FORTIFIED PASS

The bright moon lifts from the Mountain of Heaven

In an infinite haze of cloud and sea,

And the wind, that has come a thousand miles,

Beats at the Jade Pass battlements….

China marches its men down Baideng Road

While Tartar troops peess

across blue waters of the bay….

And since not one battle famous in history

Sent all its fighters back again,

The soldiers turn round, looking toward the border,

And think of home, with wistful eyes,

And of those tonight in the upper chambers

Who toss and sigh and cannot rest.

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I have come out of town to be free this morning

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.


Wei Yingwu

TO MY DAUGHTER

ON HER MARRIAGE INTO THE YANG FAMILY

My heart has been heavy all day long

Because you have so far to go.

The marriage of a girl, away from her parents,

Is the launching of a little boat on a great river.

…You were very young when your mother died,

Which made me the more tender of you.

Your elder sister has looked out for you,

And now you are both crying and cannot part.

This makes my grief the harder to bear;

Yet it is right that you should go.

…Having had from childhood no mother to guide you,

How will you honour your mother-in-law?

It’s an excellent family; they will be kind to you,

They will forgive you your mistakes —

Although ours has been so pure and poor

That you can take them no great dowry.

Be gentle and respectful, as a woman should be,

Careful of word and look, observant of good example.

…After this morning we separate,

There’s no knowing for how long….

I always try to hide my feelings —

They are suddenly too much for me,

When I turn and see my younger daughter

With the tears running down her cheek.


Liu Zongyuan

READING BUDDHIST CLASSICS WITH ZHAO

AT HIS TEMPLE IN THE EARLY MORNING

I clean my teeth in water drawn from a cold well;

And while I brush my clothes, I purify my mind;

Then, slowly turning pages in the Tree-Leaf Book,

I recite, along the path to the eastern shelter.

…The world has forgotten the true fountain of this teaching

And people enslave themselves to miracles and fables.

Under the given words I want the essential meaning,

I look for the simplest way to sow and reap my nature.

Here in the quiet of the priest’s templecourtyard,

Mosses add their climbing colour to the thick bamboo;

And now comes the sun, out of mist and fog,

And pines that seem to be new-bathed;

And everything is gone from me, speech goes, and reading,

Leaving the single unison.

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In Yangzhou trees linger bell-notes of evening

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.

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And I could sleep soundly and late in the morning

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.

And I choose to put away from me every worldly matter

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.

 

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The mountain-light suddenly fails in the west,

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?

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I have sailed the River of Yellow Flowers,

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.

 

 

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

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.

 

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Rounding ten thousand turns through the mountains

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.

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