Song of Watering Horses Near the Great Wall
- A Han dynasty Yuefu
The riverside grass verdant
Extends unendingly far away.
I shouldn’t yearn for a far-off man,
Yet I dreamed of him in the night.
I dreamed about him by my side,
Then woke to find him still away,
Away in various distant places,
Tossing about out of my sight.
A leafless tree can feel the wind,
An unfrozen sea can feel the cold;
Warmly greeted by their families,
Would one of them tell me his news?
A traveler from afar arrives
And brings me a carp-shaped case.
I tell my boy to break the carps
And a silk letter in them we find.
Then I kneel with my back erect
To read what the message says:
‘Eat well & take care of your health,
I’ve been missing you all the time. ’
By Yu Shinan (558 – 638)
With fresh dew thou rins’st thy hanging ribbons . There flows thy voice strong
Out of bare parasol trees.
As thou liv’st on high, thy far-reaching sound is wafted along
Yet not by the autumn breeze.
1): The shape of a cicada's antennae looks like hanging ribbons. In ancient China, the term hat ribbons (for knotting under the jaw to fasten the hat) was often used as a metonymy for a high official.
Deep, Shady, the Cold Mountain Trail
By Han Shan (??? – ???)
Deep, shady, the Cold Mountain trail;
Bleak, chilly, the brink of a ravine.
Cheep, chirp, the birds are often heard.
Peace, silence, others won't be seen.
Whistle, rustle, the winds rub my face;
Flitter, flutter, I'm in the snow's embrace.
Morn after morn, the sun always hides.
Year after year, I've unknown spring's trace.
By Wang Wei (701 – 761)
Still mountains: no one to be seen,
Yet human voices drift therein.
In thick woods, the sunlight returns,
And in the patterns it makes, appear mosses green.
By Li Bai (701-762)
In front of the bed, there’s moonlight.
Or is it, frost on the ground?
I look up; the mountain moon is bright!
I droop head; the heart is homeward bound.
The Yellow Crane Tower
By Cui Hao (704 - 754)
The ancient immortals rode the yellow cranes away,
Only the empty Yellow Crane Tower is left in this place.
The yellow cranes, once gone, have never come back again,
And a thousand years of white clouds have stayed calmly in the skies.
The bright river is clear, so are the trees on the Hangyang bank,
And the fragrant grass is lush on the Parrot Islet.
The sun sets, whereabouts is my homeland?
The hazed waves on the river make one fret.
By Liu Zongyuan (773-819)
Over a thousand mountains, bird flights have disappeared;
Throughout myriad paths, human tracks are covered.
In straw cloak and hat, an old man's in the lone boat,
In a freezing river and the snow, angling alone.
By Du Fu (712 – 770)
The Capital is in shatters,
Though hills and rills are still there.
The spring comes to the City,
Yet sees weeds and shrubs everywhere.
The flowers catch my tears,
As if feel my lamentation.
Flitting birds startle my heart,
As I'm being vexed at separation.
The beacon fires have been burning
For three months so far this year.
I would give ten thousand in gold
For a letter from home to arrive here.
Worried scratching of head
Causes my hair to become thin,
Soon there will not be enough
Of it to hold a hairpin.
2) At the end of 755, An Lushan, a general of Sogdian-Turkish origin, revolted against the Tang Dynasty with his Tartar troops. In July 756, seeing that it was under imminent threat, the Emperor abandoned Changan, the imperial capital. On the discovery of his departure, panic and looting broke out in the city which fell to the Tartar troops shortly afterwards. It is generally believed that Du Fu was captured by a group of rebels and taken by them, perhaps as a porter, to the capital where the poem was composed.
Rejoicing at Rain in a Spring Night
By Du Fu (712 – 770)
The good rain knows the seasons,
And comes around when spring is here.
Following the wind, it glides into the night,
Moistens things, delicate and soundless.
The paths in outskirt are as dark as clouds,
The only lights are from lanterns of river boats.
The dawn shall see splashes of steeped red:
The heavy flowers in the City of Brocade.
3) Present-day Chengdu.
Night Mooring by the Maple Bridge
By Zhang Ji (??? – ???)
As the moon went down, the crows cawed in the frosty air.
At the brooding maples did fishing-torches drowsily stare.
Outside Gusu , from the Cold Mountain Temple, the toll
Of its bell reached, through midnight, the rover's boat.
4) Present-day Suzhou, it is a city in the Jiangsu province, well-known for its beautiful gardens and stone bridges. The Cold Mountain Temple and the Maple Bridge are about 2 miles west of the city.
A Flower, Yet not Truly a Flower
By Bai Juyi (772–846)
A flower, yet not truly a flower; a fog, yet not truly a fog;
It comes at midnight, and leaves at daybreak.
Coming like a spring dream, how long can it be?
Leaving like a morning cloud, nowhere to be found.
江城子 • 密州出獵
Hunting outside Mizhou, to the Tune of Riverside Town
By Su Shi (1037 - 1101)
For now, I shall show my youthful vigor,
with a yellow hound on my left hand leash,
and a gray falcon on my right hand glove.
In satin caps and sable coats, a thousand riders
sweep across the level hill.
As the whole town turn out and follow me, the governor,
I shall shoot a tiger myself
like Sun Quan did.
Half-drunk and bold with my chest exposed,
I could not care less about
the frost-like hairs in my sideburns.
When will I be sent to defend the frontier
like Feng Tang was?
I shall then hold a bow, drawn as fully as a full moon,
and shoot the Celestial Wolf.
5) Mizhou is an ancient town in modern day Shandong province, where Su Shi once worked as its governor.
6) Sun Quan was a ruler of Eastern Wu in the Three Kingdoms period.
7) Feng Tang was a Han dynasty politician.
8) The Celestial Wolf refers to Sirius. It is a metaphor for the Western Xia, an enemy state of the Song Dynasty.
江城子 • 乙卯正月二十日夜記夢
A Dream, to the Tune of Riverside Town
By Su Shi (1037 - 1101)
For ten years, the living roves and the dead stays.
I don't think about you often,
yet cannot forget you either.
With your grave a thousand miles away,
where can I tell my loneliness?
Even if we met, how could you recognize me,
with dust all over my face
and hair like frost?
Last night in a dream I suddenly returned home.
By a little window,
you were making yourself up.
We looked at each other in silence,
with tears coursing down our cheeks.
I can envisage every year the heart-breaking place:
the moon shines at night
on the mound of short pines.
青玉案 • 元夕
The Lantern Festival, to the Tune of Green Jade Bowl
By Xin qiji (1140–1207)
Tonight’s east wind blows through blooming flowers on thousands of trees
And even blows down
Showers of stars.
Fine horses, carved carriages, and fragrance fill the roads.
The sound of magic flutes flows, the lighted jade urns turn.
All night the fishes and the dragons dance.
Butterflies, snowy willows and golden threads
Chortle away with light, sweet smells.
I’ve been searching for her hundreds of times in the crowds,
Then suddenly I look round,
There the person is,
In a dimly-lit spot.
By Bian Zhilin (1910 - 2000)
You stand on a bridge and watch the sights,
A sightseer from upstairs watches you.
The bright moon decorates your window,
You decorate another person’s dreams.