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.

Throughout this dynasty no one had painted horses

Du Fu

A DRAWING OF A HORSE BY GENERAL CAO

AT SECRETARY WEI FENG’S HOUSE

Throughout this dynasty no one had painted horses

Like the master-spirit, Prince Jiangdu —

And then to General Cao through his thirty years of fame

The world’s gaze turned, for royal steeds.

He painted the late Emperor’s luminous white horse.

For ten days the thunder flew over Dragon Lake,

And a pink-agate plate was sent him from the palace-

The talk of the court-ladies, the marvel of all eyes.

The General danced, receiving it in his honoured home

After this rare gift, followed rapidly fine silks

From many of the nobles, requesting that his art

Lend a new lustre to their screens.

…First came the curly-maned horse of Emperor Taizong,

Then, for the Guos, a lion-spotted horse….

But now in this painting I see two horses,

A sobering sight for whosoever knew them.

They are war- horses. Either could face ten thousand.

They make the white silk stretch away into a vast desert.

And the seven others with them are almost as noble

Mist and snow are moving across a cold sky,

And hoofs are cleaving snow-drifts under great trees-

With here a group of officers and there a group of servants.

See how these nine horses all vie with one another-

The high clear glance, the deep firm breath.

…Who understands distinction? Who really cares for art?

You, Wei Feng, have followed Cao; Zhidun preceded him.

…I remember when the late Emperor came toward his Summer Palace,

The procession, in green-feathered rows, swept from the eastern sky —

Thirty thousand horses, prancing, galloping,

Fashioned, every one of them, like the horses in this picture….

But now the Imperial Ghost receives secret jade from the River God,

For the Emperor hunts crocodiles no longer by the streams.

Where you see his Great Gold Tomb, you may hear among the pines

A bird grieving in the wind that the Emperor’s horses are gone.

The bones of great writers are your brushes, in the School of Heaven

Li Bai

PARTING AT A WINE-SHOP IN NANJING

A wind, bringing willow-cotton, sweetens the shop,

And a girl from Wu, pouring wine, urges me to share it

With my comrades of the city who are here to see me off;

And as each of them drains his cup, I say to him in parting,

Oh, go and ask this river running to the east

If it can travel farther than a friend’s love!


Li Bai

A FAREWELL TO SECRETARY SHUYUN

AT THE XIETIAO VILLA IN XUANZHOU

Since yesterday had to throw me and bolt,

Today has hurt my heart even more.

The autumn wildgeese have a long wind for escort

As I face them from this villa, drinking my wine.

The bones of great writers are your brushes, in the School of Heaven,

And I am a Lesser Xie growing up by your side.

We both are exalted to distant thought,

Aspiring to the sky and the bright moon.

But since water still flows, though we cut it with our swords,

And sorrows return, though we drown them with wine,

Since the world can in no way answer our craving,

I will loosen my hair tomorrow and take to a fishingboat.


Cen Can

A SONG OF RUNNING-HORSE RIVER IN FAREWELL

TO GENERAL FENG OF THE WESTERN EXPEDITION

Look how swift to the snowy sea races Running-Horse River! —

And sand, up from the desert, flies yellow into heaven.

This Ninth-month night is blowing cold at Wheel Tower,

And valleys, like peck measures, fill with the broken boulders

That downward, headlong, follow the wind.

…In spite of grey grasses, Tartar horses are plump;

West of the Hill of Gold, smoke and dust gather.

O General of the Chinese troops, start your campaign!

Keep your iron armour on all night long,

Send your soldiers forward with a clattering of weapons!

…While the sharp wind’s point cuts the face like a knife,

And snowy sweat steams on the horses’ backs,

Freezing a pattern of five-flower coins,

Your challenge from camp, from an inkstand of ice,

Has chilled the barbarian chieftain’s heart.

You will have no more need of an actual battle! —

We await the news of victory, here at the western pass!

 

But Yueh people talk about Heavenly Mother Mountain

 

Li Bai

TIANMU MOUNTAIN ASCENDED IN A DREAM

A seafaring visitor will talk about Japan,

Which waters and mists conceal beyond approach;

But Yueh people talk about Heavenly Mother Mountain,

Still seen through its varying deeps of cloud.

In a straight line to heaven, its summit enters heaven,

Tops the five Holy Peaks, and casts a shadow through China

With the hundred-mile length of the Heavenly Terrace Range,

Which, just at this point, begins turning southeast.

…My heart and my dreams are in Wu and Yueh

And they cross Mirror Lake all night in the moon.

And the moon lights my shadow

And me to Yan River —

With the hermitage of Xie still there

And the monkeys calling clearly over ripples of green water.

I wear his pegged boots

Up a ladder of blue cloud,

Sunny ocean half-way,

Holy cock-crow in space,

Myriad peaks and more valleys and nowhere a road.

Flowers lure me, rocks ease me. Day suddenly ends.

Bears, dragons, tempestuous on mountain and river,

Startle the forest and make the heights tremble.

Clouds darken with darkness of rain,

Streams pale with pallor of mist.

The Gods of Thunder and Lightning

Shatter the whole range.

The stone gate breaks asunder

Venting in the pit of heaven,

An impenetrable shadow.

…But now the sun and moon illumine a gold and silver terrace,

And, clad in rainbow garments, riding on the wind,

Come the queens of all the clouds, descending one by one,

With tigers for their lute-players and phoenixes for dancers.

Row upon row, like fields of hemp, range thefairy figures.

I move, my soul goes flying,

I wake with a long sigh,

My pillow and my matting

Are the lost clouds I was in.

…And this is the way it always is with human joy:

Ten thousand things run for ever like water toward the east.

And so I take my leave of you, not knowing for how long.

…But let me, on my green slope, raise a white deer

And ride to you, great mountain, when I have need of you.

Oh, how can I gravely bow and scrape to men of high rank and men of high office

Who never will suffer being shown an honest-hearted face!

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I hear people at the fishing-town stumble aboard the ferry

 

Li Qi

ON HEARING AN WANSHAN PLAY THE REED-PIPE

Bamboo from the southern hills was used to make this pipe.

And its music, that was introduced from Persia first of all,

Has taken on new magic through later use in China.

And now the Tartar from Liangzhou, blowing it for me,

Drawing a sigh from whosoever hears it,

Is bringing to a wanderer’s eyes homesick tears….

Many like to listen; but few understand.

To and fro at will there’s a long wind flying,

Dry mulberry-trees, old cypresses, trembling in its chill.

There are nine baby phoenixes, outcrying one another;

A dragon and a tiger spring up at the same moment;

Then in a hundred waterfalls ten thousand songs of autumn

Are suddenly changing to The Yuyang Lament;

And when yellow clouds grow thin and the white sun darkens,

They are changing still again to Spring in the Willow Trees.

Like Imperial Garden flowers, brightening the eye with beauty,

Are the high-hall candles we have lighted this cold night,

And with every cup of wine goes another round of music.


Meng Haoran

RETURNING AT NIGHT TO LUMEN MOUNTAIN

 

A bell in the mountain-temple sounds the coming of night.

I hear people at the fishing-town stumble aboard the ferry,

While others follow the sand-bank to their homes along the river.

…I also take a boat and am bound for Lumen Mountain —

And soon the Lumen moonlight is piercing misty trees.

I have come, before I know it, upon an ancient hermitage,

The thatch door, the piney path, the solitude, the quiet,

Where a hermit lives and moves, never needing a companion.


Li Bai

A SONG OF LU MOUNTAIN TO CENSOR LU XUZHOU

I am the madman of the Chu country

Who sang a mad song disputing Confucius.

…Holding in my hand a staff of green jade,

I have crossed, since morning at the Yellow Crane Terrace,

All five Holy Mountains, without a thought of distance,

According to the one constant habit of my life.

Lu Mountain stands beside the Southern Dipper

In clouds reaching silken like a nine-panelled screen,

With its shadows in a crystal lake deepening the green water.

The Golden Gate opens into two mountain-ranges.

A silver stream is hanging down to three stone bridges

Within sight of the mighty Tripod Falls.

Ledges of cliff and winding trails lead to blue sky

And a flush of cloud in the morning sun,

Whence no flight of birds could be blown into Wu.

…I climb to the top. I survey the whole world.

I see the long river that runs beyond return,

Yellow clouds that winds have driven hundreds of miles

And a snow-peak whitely circled by the swirl of a ninefold stream.

And so I am singing a song of Lu Mountain,

A song that is born of the breath of Lu Mountain.

…Where the Stone Mirror makes the heart’s purity purer

And green moss has buried the footsteps of Xie,

I have eaten the immortal pellet and, rid of the world’s troubles,

Before the lute’s third playing have achieved my element.

Far away I watch the angels riding coloured clouds

Toward heaven’s Jade City, with hibiscus in their hands.

And so, when I have traversed the nine sections of the world,

I will follow Saint Luao up the Great Purit

Toward the moon that whitens the city-wall, black crows are flying

 

Li Qi

A LUTE SONG

Our host, providing abundant wine to make the night mellow,

Asks his guest from Yangzhou to play for us on the lute.

Toward the moon that whitens the city-wall, black crows are flying,

Frost is on ten thousand trees, and the wind blows through our clothes;

But a copper stove has added its light to that of flowery candles,

And the lute plays The Green Water, and then The Queen of Chu.

Once it has begun to play, there is no other sound:

A spell is on the banquet, while the stars grow thin….

But three hundred miles from here, in Huai, official duties await him,

And so it’s farewell, and the road again, under cloudy mountains.


Li Qi

ON HEARING DONG PLAY THE FLAGEOLET

A POEM TO PALACE-ATTENDANT FANG

When this melody for the flageolet was made by Lady Cai,

When long ago one by one she sang its eighteen stanzas,

Even the Tartars were shedding tears into the border grasses,

And the envoy of China was heart-broken, turning back home with his escort.

…Cold fires now of old battles are grey on ancient forts,

And the wilderness is shadowed with white new-flying snow.

…When the player first brushes the Shang string and the Jue and then the Yu,

Autumn-leaves in all four quarters are shaken with a murmur.

Dong, the master,

Must have been taught in heaven.

Demons come from the deep pine-wood and stealthily listen

To music slow, then quick, following his hand,

Now far away, now near again, according to his heart.

A hundred birds from an empty mountain scatter and return;

Three thousand miles of floating clouds darken and lighten;

A wildgoose fledgling, left behind, cries for its flock,

And a Tartar child for the mother he loves.

Then river waves are calmed

And birds are mute that were singing,

And Wuzu tribes are homesick for their distant land,

And out of the dust of Siberian steppes rises a plaintive sorrow.

…Suddenly the low sound leaps to a freer tune,

Like a long wind swaying a forest, a downpour brea king tiles,

A cascade through the air, flying over tree-tops.

…A wild deer calls to his fellows. He is running among the mansions

In the corner of the capital by the Eastern Palace wall….

Phoenix Lake lies opposite the Gate of Green Jade;

But how can fame and profit concern a man of genius?

Day and night I long for him to bring his lute again.

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Why laugh when they fall asleep drunk on the sand

I find you alone under falling petals.

 

Wang Changling
IN HER QUIET WINDOW
Too young to have learned what sorrow means,
Attired for spring, she climbs to her high chamber….
The new green of the street-willows is wounding her heart —
Just for a title she sent him to war.


Wang Changling
A SONG OF THE SPRING PALACE
Last night, while a gust blew peach-petals open
And the moon shone high on the Palace Beyond Time,
The Emperor gave Pingyang, for her dancing,
Brocades against the cold spring-wind.


Wang Han
A SONG OF LIANGZHOU
They sing, they drain their cups of jade,
They strum on horseback their guitars.
…Why laugh when they fall asleep drunk on the sand ? —
How many soldiers ever come home?


Li Bai
A FAREWELL TO MENG HAORAN
ON HIS WAY TO YANGZHOU
You have left me behind, old friend, at the Yellow Crane Terrace,
On your way to visit Yangzhou in the misty month of flowers;
Your sail, a single shadow, becomes one with the blue sky,
Till now I see only the river, on its way to heaven.


Li Bai
THROUGH THE YANGZI GORGES
From the walls of Baidi high in the coloured dawn
To Jiangling by night-fall is three hundred miles,
Yet monkeys are still calling on both banks behind me
To my boat these ten thousand mountains away.


Cen Can
ON MEETING A MESSENGER TO THE CAPITAL
It’s a long way home, a long way east.
I am old and my sleeve is wet with tears.
We meet on horseback. I have no means of writing.
Tell them three words: “He is safe.”


Du Fu
ON MEETING LI GUINIAN DOWN THE RIVER
I met you often when you were visiting princes
And when you were playing in noblemen’s halls.
…Spring passes…. Far down the river now,
I find you alone under falling petals.


Wei Yingwu
AT CHUZHOU ON THE WESTERN STREAM
Where tender grasses rim the stream
And deep boughs trill with mango-birds,
On the spring flood of last night’s rain
The ferry-boat moves as though someone were poling.


Zhang Ji
A NIGHT-MOORING NEAR MAPLE BRIDGE
While I watch the moon go down, a crow caws through the frost;
Under the shadows of maple-trees a fisherman moves with his torch;
And I hear, from beyond Suzhou, from the temple on Cold Mountain,
Ringing for me, here in my boat, the midnight bell.


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The thread in the hands of a fond-hearted mother

 

Meng Jiao

A SONG OF A PURE-HEARTED GIRL

Lakka-trees ripen two by two

And mandarin-ducks die side by side.

If a true-hearted girl will love only her husband,

In a life as faithfully lived as theirs,

What troubling wave can arrive to vex

A spirit like water in a timeless well?


Meng Jiao

A TRAVELLER’S SONG

The thread in the hands of a fond-hearted mother

Makes clothes for the body of her wayward boy;

Carefully she sews and thoroughly she mends,

Dreading the delays that will keep him late from home.

But how much love has the inch-long grass

For three spring months of the light of the sun?


Chen Ziang

ON A GATE-TOWER AT YUZHOU

Where, before me, are the ages that have gone?

And where, behind me, are the coming generations?

I think of heaven and earth, without limit, without end,

And I am all alone and my tears fall down.


Li Qi

AN OLD AIR

 

There once was a man, sent on military missions,

A wanderer, from youth, on the You and Yan frontiers.

Under the horses’ hoofs he would meet his foes

And, recklessly risking his seven-foot body,

Would slay whoever dared confront

Those moustaches that bristled like porcupinequills.

…There were dark clouds below

the hills, there were white clouds above them,

But before a man has served full time, how can he go back?

In eastern Liao a girl was waiting, a girl of fifteen years,

Deft with a guitar, expert in dance and song.

…She seems to be fluting, even now, a reed-song of home,

Filling every soldier’s eyes with homesick tears.


Li Qi

A FAREWELL TO MY FRIEND CHEN ZHANGFU

 

In the Fourth-month the south wind blows plains of yellow barley,

Date-flowers have not faded yet and lakka-leaves are long.

The green peak that we left at dawn we still can see at evening,

While our horses whinny on the road, eager to turn homeward.

…Chen, my friend, you have always been a great and good man,

With your dragon’s moustache, tiger’s eyebrows and your massive forehead.

In your bosom you have shelved away ten thousand volumes.

You have held your head high, never bowed it in the dust.

…After buying us wine and pledging us, here at the eastern gate,

And taking things as lightly as a wildgoose feather,

Flat you lie, tipsy, forgetting the white sun;

But now and then you open your eyes and gaze at a high lone cloud.

…The tide-head of the lone river joins the darkening sky.

The ferryman beaches his boat. It has grown too late to sail.

And people on their way from Cheng cannot go home,

And people from Loyang sigh with disappointment.

…I have heard about the many friends around your wood land dwelling.

Yesterday you were dismissed. Are they your friends today?

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Across the green boughs stretches out her white hand

 

Li Bai

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.”


Li Bai

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.


Li Bai

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!


Li Bai

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?


Li Bai

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.