4th in projected set of 10
This week’s edition, short but sweet,
will be selections from Wei Yingwu and Li Bai.
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.
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.
A POEM TO A TAOIST HERMIT
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!
ON MEETING MY FRIEND FENG ZHU
IN THE CAPITAL
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 peer 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.
BALLADS OF FOUR SEASONS: SPRING
The lovely Lo Fo of the western land
Plucks mulberry leaves by the waterside.
Across the green boughs stretches out her white hand;
In golden sunshine her rosy robe is dyed.
“my silkworms are hungry, I cannot stay.
Tarry not with your five-horse cab, I pray.”
BALLADS OF FOUR SEASONS: SUMMER
On Mirror Lake outspread for miles and miles,
The lotus lilies in full blossom teem.
In fifth moon Xi Shi gathers them with smiles,
Watchers o’erwhelm the bank of Yuoye Stream.
Her boat turns back without waiting moonrise
To yoyal house amid amorous sighs.
A SONG OF AN AUTUMN MIDNIGHT
A slip of the moon hangs over the capital;
Ten thousand washing-mallets are pounding;
And the autumn wind is blowing my heart
For ever and ever toward the Jade Pass….
Oh, when will the Tartar troops be conquered,
And my husband come back from the long campaign!
BALLADS OF FOUR SEASONS: WINTER
The courier will depart next day, she’s told.
She sews a warrior’s gown all night.
Her fingers feel the needle cold.
How can she hold the scissors tight?
The work is done, she sends it far away.
When will it reach the town where warriors stay?
A SONG OF CHANGGAN
My hair had hardly covered my forehead.
I was picking flowers, paying by my door,
When you, my lover, on a bamboo horse,
Came trotting in circles and throwing green plums.
We lived near together on a lane in Ch’ang-kan,
Both of us young and happy-hearted.
…At fourteen I became your wife,
So bashful that I dared not smile,
And I lowered my head toward a dark corner
And would not turn to your thousand calls;
But at fifteen I straightened my brows and laughed,
Learning that no dust could ever seal our love,
That even unto death I would await you by my post
And would never lose heart in the tower of silent watching.
…Then when I was sixteen, you left on a long journey
Through the Gorges of Ch’u-t’ang, of rock and whirling water.
And then came the Fifth-month, more than I could bear,
And I tried to hear the monkeys in your lofty far-off sky.
Your footprints by our door, where I had watched you go,
Were hidden, every one of them, under green moss,
Hidden under moss too deep to sweep away.
And the first autumn wind added fallen leaves.
And now, in the Eighth-month, yellowing butterflies
Hover, two by two, in our west-garden grasses
And, because of all this, my heart is breaking
And I fear for my bright cheeks, lest they fade.
…Oh, at last, when you return through the three Pa districts,
Send me a message home ahead!
And I will come and meet you and will never mind the distance,
All the way to Chang-feng Sha.