I have poems; I can read

Li Bai
THOUGHTS OF OLD TIME FROM A NIGHT-MOORING
UNDER MOUNT NIU-ZHU
This night to the west of the river-brim
There is not one cloud in the whole blue sky,
As I watch from my deck the autumn moon,
Vainly remembering old General Xie….
I have poems; I can read;
He heard others, but not mine.
…Tomorrow I shall hoist my sail,
With fallen maple-leaves behind me.


Du Fu
ON A MOONLIGHT NIGHT
Far off in Fuzhou she is watching the moonlight,
Watching it alone from the window of her chamber-
For our boy and girl, poor little babes,
Are too young to know where the Capital is.
Her cloudy hair is sweet with mist,
Her jade-white shoulder is cold in the moon.
…When shall we lie again, with no more tears,
Watching this bright light on our screen?


Du Fu
A SPRING VIEW
Though a country be sundered, hills and rivers endure;
And spring comes green again to trees and grasses
Where petals have been shed like tears
And lonely birds have sung their grief.
…After the war-fires of three months,
One message from home is worth a ton of gold.
…I stroke my white hair. It has grown too thin
To hold the hairpins any more.


Du Fu
A NIGHT-VIGIL IN THE LEFT COURT OF THE PALACE
Flowers are shadowed, the palace darkens,
Birds twitter by for a place to perch;
Heaven’s ten thousand windows are twinkling,
And nine cloud-terraces are gleaming in the moonlight.
…While I wait for the golden lock to turn,
I hear jade pendants tinkling in the wind….
I have a petition to present in the morning,
All night I ask what time it is.


Du Fu
TAKING LEAVE OF FRIENDS ON MY WAY TO HUAZHOU
In the second year of Zhide, I escaped from the capital through the Gate of Golden Light and went to Fengxiang. In the first year of Qianyuan, I was appointed as official to Huazhou from my former post of Censor. Friends and relatives gathered and saw me leave by the same gate. And I wrote this poem.
This is the road by which I fled,
When the rebels had reached the west end of the city;
And terror, ever since, has clutched at my vitals
Lest some of my soul should never return.
…The court has come back now, filling the capital;
But the Emperor sends me away again.
Useless and old, I rein in my horse
For one last look at the thousand gates.

Master, I hail you from my heart

Cen Can
A MESSAGE TO CENSOR Du Fu
AT HIS OFFICE IN THE LEFT COURT
Together we officials climbed vermilion steps,
To be parted by the purple walls….
Our procession, which entered the palace at dawn,
Leaves fragrant now at dusk with imperial incense.
…Grey heads may grieve for a fallen flower,
Or blue clouds envy a lilting bird;
But this reign is of heaven, nothing goes wrong,
There have been almost no petitions.


Li Bai
A MESSAGE TO MENG HAORAN
Master, I hail you from my heart,
And your fame arisen to the skies….
Renouncing in ruddy youth the importance of hat and chariot,
You chose pine-trees and clouds; and now, whitehaired,
Drunk with the moon, a sage of dreams,
Flower- bewitched, you are deaf to the Emperor….
High mountain, how I long to reach you,
Breathing your sweetness even here!


Li Bai
BIDDING A FRIEND FAREWELL AT JINGMEN FERRY
Sailing far off from Jingmen Ferry,
Soon you will be with people in the south,
Where the mountains end and the plains begin
And the river winds through wilderness….
The moon is lifted like a mirror,
Sea-clouds gleam like palaces,
And the water has brought you a touch of home
To draw your boat three hundred miles.


Li Bai
A FAREWELL TO A FRIEND
With a blue line of mountains north of the wall,
And east of the city a white curve of water,
Here you must leave me and drift away
Like a loosened water-plant hundreds of miles….
I shall think of you in a floating cloud;
So in the sunset think of me.
…We wave our hands to say good-bye,
And my horse is neighing again and again.


Li Bai
ON HEARING JUN THE BUDDHIST MONK
FROM SHU PLAY HIS LUTE
The monk from Shu with his green silk lute-case,
Walking west down Omei Mountain,
Has brought me by one touch of the strings
The breath of pines in a thousand valleys.
I hear him in the cleansing brook,
I hear him in the icy bells;
And I feel no change though the mountain darken
And cloudy autumn heaps the sky.

Ever new the shock of beauty

Du Shenyan
ON A WALK IN THE EARLY SPRING
HARMONIZING A POEM BY MY FRIEND LU
STATIONED AT CHANGZHOU
Only to wanderers can come
Ever new the shock of beauty,
Of white cloud and red cloud dawning from the sea,
Of spring in the wild-plum and river-willow….
I watch a yellow oriole dart in the warm air,
And a green water- plant reflected by the sun.
Suddenly an old song fills
My heart with home, my eyes with tears.


Shen Quanqi
LINES
Against the City of the Yellow Dragon
Our troops were sent long years ago,
And girls here watch the same melancholy moon
That lights our Chinese warriors —
And young wives dream a dream of spring,
That last night their heroic husbands,
In a great attack, with flags and drums,
Captured the City of the Yellow Dragon.


Song Zhiwen
INSCRIBED ON THE WALL OF AN INN
NORTH OF DAYU MOUNTAIN
They say that wildgeese, flying southward,
Here turn back, this very month….
Shall my own southward journey
Ever be retraced, I wonder?
…The river is pausing at ebb-tide,
And the woods are thick with clinging mist —
But tomorrow morning, over the mountain,
Dawn will be white with the plum-trees of home.


Wang Wan
A MOORING UNDER NORTH FORT HILL
Under blue mountains we wound our way,
My boat and 1, along green water;
Until the banks at low tide widened,
With no wind stirring my lone sail.
…Night now yields to a sea of sun,
And the old year melts in freshets.
At last I can send my messengers —
Wildgeese, homing to Loyang.


Chang Jian
A BUDDHIST RETREAT BEHIND BROKEN-MOUNTAIN TEMPLE
In the pure morning, near the old temple,
Where early sunlight points the tree-tops,
My path has wound, through a sheltered hollow
Of boughs and flowers, to a Buddhist retreat.
Here birds are alive with mountain-light,
And the mind of man touches peace in a pool,
And a thousand sounds are quieted
By the breathing of a temple-bell.

The five Holy Mountains have the rank of the Three Dukes

Han Yu

STOPPING AT A TEMPLE ON HENG MOUNTAIN I

INSCRIBE THIS POEM IN THE GATE-TOWER

The five Holy Mountains have the rank of the Three Dukes.

The other four make a ring, with the Song Mountain midmost.

To this one, in the fire-ruled south, where evil signs are rife,

Heaven gave divine power, ordaining it a peer.

All the clouds and hazes are hidden in its girdle;

And its forehead is beholden only by a few.

…I came here in autumn, during the rainy season,

When the sky was overcast and the clear wind gone.

I quieted my mind and prayed, hoping for an answer;

For assuredly righteous thinking reaches to high heaven.

And soon all the mountain-peaks were showing me their faces;

I looked up at a pinnacle that held the clean blue sky:

The wide Purple-Canopy joined the Celestial Column;

The Stone Granary leapt, while the Fire God stood still.

Moved by this token, I dismounted to offer thanks.

A long path of pine and cypress led to the temple.

Its white walls and purple pillars shone, and the vivid colour

Of gods and devils filled the place with patterns of red and blue.

I climbed the steps and, bending down to sacrifice, besought

That my pure heart might be welcome, in spite of my humble offering.

The old priest professed to know the judgment of the God:

He was polite and reverent, making many bows.

He handed me divinity-cups, he showed me how to use them

And told me that my fortune was the very best of al

Though exiled to a barbarous land, mine is a happy life.

Plain food and plain clothes are all I ever wanted.

To be prince, duke, premier, general, was never my desire;

And if the God would bless me, what better could he grant than this ? —

At night I lie down to sleep in the top of a high tower;

While moon and stars glimmer through the darkness of the clouds….

Apes call, a bell sounds. And ready for dawn

I see arise, far in the east the cold bright sun.

The fine clouds have opened and the River of Stars is gone

Han Yu

ON THE FESTIVAL OF THE MOON

TO SUB-OFFICIAL ZHANG

The fine clouds have opened and the River of Stars is gone,

A clear wind blows across the sky, and the moon widens its wave,

The sand is smooth, the water still, no sound and no shadow,

As I offer you a cup of wine, asking you to sing.

But so sad is this song of yours and so bitter your voice

That before I finish listening my tears have become a rain:

“Where Lake Dongting is joined to the sky by the lofty Nine-Doubt Mountain,

Dragons, crocodiles, rise and sink, apes, flying foxes, whimper….

At a ten to one risk of death, I have reached my official post,

Where lonely I live and hushed, as though I were in hiding.

I leave my bed, afraid of snakes; I eat, fearing poisons;

The air of the lake is putrid, breathing its evil odours….

Yesterday, by the district office, the great drum was announcing

The crowning of an emperor, a change in the realm.

The edict granting pardons runs three hundred miles a day,

All those who were to die have had their sentences commuted,

The unseated are promoted and exiles are recalled,

Corruptions are abolished, clean officers appointed.

My superior sent my name in but the governor would not listen

And has only transferred me to this barbaric place.

My rank is very low and useless to refer to;

They might punish me with lashes in the dust of the street.

Most of myfellow exiles are now returning home —

A journey which, to me, is a heaven beyond climbing.”

…Stop your song, I beg you, and listen to mine,

A song that is utterly different from yours:

“Tonight is the loveliest moon of the year.

All else is with fate, not ours to control;

But, refusing this wine, may we choose more tomorrow?”

When the top of Zun is green and the summer tide is rising.

 

Yuan Jie

A DRINKING SONG AT STONE-FISH LAKE

I have used grain from the public fields, for distilling wine. After my office hours I have the wine loaded on a boat and then I seat my friends on the bank of the lake. The little wine-boats come to each of us and supply us with wine. We seem to be drinking on Pa Islet in Lake Dongting. And I write this poem.

Stone-Fish Lake is like Lake Dongting —

…With the mountain for a table, and the lake a fount of wine,

The tipplers all are settled along the sandy shore.

Though a stiff wind for days has roughened the water,

Wine-boats constantly arrive….

I have a long-necked gourd and, happy on Ba Island,

I am pouring a drink in every direction doing away with care.


Han Yu

MOUNTAIN-STONES

 

Rough were the mountain-stones, and the path very narrow;

And when I reached the temple, bats were in the dusk.

I climbed to the hall, sat on the steps, and drank the rain- washed air

Among the round gardenia-pods and huge bananaleaves.

On the old wall, said the priest, were Buddhas finely painted,

And he brought a light and showed me, and I called them wonderful

He spread the bed, dusted the mats, and made my supper ready,

And, though the food was coarse, it satisfied my hunger.

At midnight, while I lay there not hearing even an insect,

The mountain moon with her pure light entered my door….

At dawn I left the mountain and, alone, lost my way:

In and out, up and down, while a heavy mist

Made brook and mountaingreen and purple, brightening everything.

I am passing sometimes pines and oaks, which ten men could not girdle,

I am treading pebbles barefoot in swift-running water —

Its ripples purify my ear, while a soft wind blows my garments….

These are the things which, in themselves, make life happy.

Why should we be hemmed about and hampered with people?

O chosen pupils, far behind me in my own country,

What if I spent my old age here and never went back home?

An audience like mountains lost among themselves.

Du Fu

A SONG OF DAGGER-DANCING TO A GIRL-PUPIL

OF LADY GONGSUN

On the 19th of the Tenth-month in the second year of Dali, I saw, in the house of the Kueifu official Yuante, a girl named Li from Lingying dancing with a dagger. I admired her skill and asked who was her teacher. She named Lady Gongsun. I remembered that in the third year of Kaiyuan at Yancheng, when I was a little boy, I saw Lady Gongsun dance. She was the only one in the Imperial Theatre who could dance with this weapon. Now she is aged and unknown, and even her pupil has passed the heyday of beauty. I wrote this poem to express my wistfulness. The work of Zhang Xu of the Wu district, that great master of grassy writing, was improved by his having been present when Lady Gongsun danced in the Yeh district. From this may be judged the art of Gongsun.

There lived years ago the beautiful Gongsun,

Who, dancing with her dagger, drew from all four quarters

An audience like mountains lost among themselves.

Heaven and earth moved back and forth, following her motions,

Which were bright as when the Archer shot the nine suns down the sky

And rapid as angels before the wings of dragons.

She began like a thunderbolt, venting its anger,

And ended like the shining calm of rivers and the sea….

But vanished are those red lips and those pearly sleeves;

And none but this one pupil bears the perfume of her fame,

This beauty from Lingying, at the Town of the White God,

Dancing still and singing in the old blithe way.

And while we reply to each other’s questions,

We sigh together, saddened by changes that have come.

There were eight thousand ladies in the late Emperor’s court,

But none could dance the dagger-dance like Lady Gongsun.

…Fifty years have passed, like the turning of a palm;

Wind and dust, filling the world, obscure the Imperial House.

Instead of the Pear-Garden Players, who have blown by like a mist,

There are one or two girl-musicians now-trying to charm the cold Sun.

There are man-size trees by the Emperor’s Golden Tomb

I seem to hear dead grasses rattling on the cliffs of Qutang.

…The song is done, the slow string and quick pipe have ceased.

At the height of joy, sorrow comes with the eastern moon rising.

And I, a poor old man, not knowing where to go,

Must harden my feet on the lone hills, toward sickness and despair.

Wildgeese flying high, sun and moon both white,

Du Fu

A LETTER TO CENSOR HAN

I am sad. My thoughts are in Youzhou.

I would hurry there-but I am sick in bed.

…Beauty would be facing me across the autumn waters.

Oh, to wash my feet in Lake Dongting and see at its eight corners

Wildgeese flying high, sun and moon both white,

Green maples changing to red in the frosty sky,

Angels bound for the Capital of Heaven, near the North Star,

Riding, some of them phrenixes, and others unicorns,

With banners of hibiscus and with melodies of mist,

Their shadows dancing upside-down in the southern rivers,

Till the Queen of the Stars, drowsy with her nectar,

Would forget the winged men on either side of her!

…From the Wizard of the Red Pine this word has come for me:

That after his earlier follower he has now a new disciple

Who, formerly at the capital as Emperor Liu’s adviser,

In spite of great successes, never could be happy.

…What are a country’s rise and fall?

Can flesh-pots be as fragrant as mountain fruit?….

I grieve that he is lost far away in the south.

May the star of long life accord him its blessing!

…O purity, to seize you from beyond the autumn waters

And to place you as an offering in the Court of Imperial Jade.


Du Fu

A SONG OF AN OLD CYPRESS

 

Beside the Temple of the Great Premier stands an ancient cypress

With a trunk of green bronze and a root of stone.

The girth of its white bark would be the reach of forty men

And its tip of kingfish-blue is two thousand feet in heaven.

Dating from the days of a great ruler’s great statesman,

Their very tree is loved now and honoured by the people.

Clouds come to it from far away, from the Wu cliffs,

And the cold moon glistens on its peak of snow.

…East of the Silk Pavilion yesterday I found

The ancient ruler and wise statesman both worshipped in one temple,

Whose tree, with curious branches, ages the whole landscape

In spite of the fresh colours of the windows and the doors.

And so firm is the deep root, so established underground,

That its lone lofty boughs can dare the weight of winds,

Its only protection the Heavenly Power,

Its only endurance the art of its Creator.

Though oxen sway ten thousand heads, they cannot move a mountain.

…When beams are required to restore a great house,

Though a tree writes no memorial, yet people understand

That not unless they fell it can use be made of it….

Its bitter heart may be tenanted now by black and white ants,

But its odorous leaves were once the nest of phoenixes and pheasants.

…Let wise and hopeful men harbour no complaint.

The greater the timber, the tougher it is to use.

Wildgeese flying high, sun and moon both white,

Du Fu

A LETTER TO CENSOR HAN

I am sad. My thoughts are in Youzhou.

I would hurry there-but I am sick in bed.

…Beauty would be facing me across the autumn waters.

Oh, to wash my feet in Lake Dongting and see at its eight corners

Wildgeese flying high, sun and moon both white,

Green maples changing to red in the frosty sky,

Angels bound for the Capital of Heaven, near the North Star,

Riding, some of them phrenixes, and others unicorns,

With banners of hibiscus and with melodies of mist,

Their shadows dancing upside-down in the southern rivers,

Till the Queen of the Stars, drowsy with her nectar,

Would forget the winged men on either side of her!

…From the Wizard of the Red Pine this word has come for me:

That after his earlier follower he has now a new disciple

Who, formerly at the capital as Emperor Liu’s adviser,

In spite of great successes, never could be happy.

…What are a country’s rise and fall?

Can flesh-pots be as fragrant as mountain fruit?….

I grieve that he is lost far away in the south.

May the star of long life accord him its blessing!

…O purity, to seize you from beyond the autumn waters

And to place you as an offering in the Court of Imperial Jade.


Du Fu

A SONG OF AN OLD CYPRESS

 

Beside the Temple of the Great Premier stands an ancient cypress

With a trunk of green bronze and a root of stone.

The girth of its white bark would be the reach of forty men

And its tip of kingfish-blue is two thousand feet in heaven.

Dating from the days of a great ruler’s great statesman,

Their very tree is loved now and honoured by the people.

Clouds come to it from far away, from the Wu cliffs,

And the cold moon glistens on its peak of snow.

…East of the Silk Pavilion yesterday I found

The ancient ruler and wise statesman both worshipped in one temple,

Whose tree, with curious branches, ages the whole landscape

In spite of the fresh colours of the windows and the doors.

And so firm is the deep root, so established underground,

That its lone lofty boughs can dare the weight of winds,

Its only protection the Heavenly Power,

Its only endurance the art of its Creator.

Though oxen sway ten thousand heads, they cannot move a mountain.

…When beams are required to restore a great house,

Though a tree writes no memorial, yet people understand

That not unless they fell it can use be made of it….

Its bitter heart may be tenanted now by black and white ants,

But its odorous leaves were once the nest of phoenixes and pheasants.

…Let wise and hopeful men harbour no complaint.

The greater the timber, the tougher it is to use.

Letting wealth and fame drift by like clouds

Du Fu

A SONG OF A PAINTING TO GENERAL CAO

O General, descended from Wei’s Emperor Wu,

You are nobler now than when a noble….

Conquerors and their velour perish,

But masters of beauty live forever.

…With your brush-work learned from Lady Wei

And second only to Wang Xizhi’s,

Faithful to your art, you know no age,

Letting wealth and fame drift by like clouds.

…In the years of Kaiyuan you were much with the Emperor,

Accompanied him often to the Court of the South Wind.

When the spirit left great statesmen, on walls of the Hall of Fame

The point of your brush preserved their living faces.

You crowned all the premiers with coronets of office;

You fitted all commanders with arrows at their girdles;

You made the founders of this dynasty, with every hair alive,

Seem to be just back from the fierceness of a battle.

…The late Emperor had a horse, known as Jade Flower,

Whom artists had copied in various poses.

They led him one day to the red marble stairs

With his eyes toward the palace in the deepening air.

Then, General, commanded to proceed with your work,

You centred all your being on a piece of silk.

And later, when your dragon-horse, born of the sky,

Had banished earthly horses for ten thousand generations,

There was one Jade Flower standing on the dais

And another by the steps, and they marvelled at each other….

The Emperor rewarded you with smiles and with gifts,

While officers and men of the stud hung about and stared.

…Han Gan, your follower, has likewise grown proficient

At representing horses in all their attitudes;

But picturing the flesh, he fails to draw the bone-

So that even the finest are deprived of their spirit.

You, beyond the mere skill, used your art divinely-

And expressed, not only horses, but the life of a good man….

Yet here you are, wandering in a world of disorder

And sketching from time to time some petty passerby

People note your case with the whites of their eyes.

There’s nobody purer, there’s nobody poorer.

…Read in the records, from earliest times,

How hard it is to be a great artist.