Poem – Old Poem

Did Chuang Chou dream he was the butterfly?
Or the butterfly dream he was Chuang Chou?
In the single body’s transformations
See the vortex of the Myriad Creatures.
No mystery then that the Magic Seas
Shrank again to crystal streams,
Or down by Ch’ang-an’s Green Gate
The gardener was Marquis of Tung-Ling.
If this is the fate of fame and power,
What is it for- this endless striving?

Poem – Snow at Changsha

Out of the north the snow
Is assaulting Changsha:
Its clouds over Hunan go
(Where few snows are):
A myriad homes makes cold
Far borne on the gale
With scattered leaflets old
Where raindrops hail,
Not grown to flake-like flowers.

Empty of angels pale
Flaccid my purse.
Yet a silver pot may bail
Credit for wine.
No one to fetch it? Why then
I drain off the froth.
Must I wait again and again
Till the dizzy crows
Come home to their roosting bowers?

Poem – Newlywed’s Departure

Chinese vines climb up low hemp plants;
the tendrils cannot stretch very far.
To marry a daughter to a drafted man
is worse than abandoning her by roadside.
“I just did my hair up as a married woman,
haven’t even had time to warm the bed for you.
Marry in the evening and depart in the morning,
isn’t that too hurried!
You are not going very far,
just to guard the borders at Heyang,
but my status in the family is not yet official.
How can I greet my parents-in-laws?
When my parents brought me up,
they kept me in my room day and night.
When a daughter is married,
she has to stay even if she’s wed to a chicken or dog.
Now you are going to the place of death.
A heavy pain cramps my stomach.
I was determined to follow you wherever you went,
then realized that was not proper.
Please don’t be hampered by our new marriage;
try to be a good soldier.
When women get mixed up in an army,
I fear, the soldiers’ morale will falter.
I sigh, since I’m from a poor family
and it took so long to sew this silk dress.
I will never put this dress on again,
and I’m going to wash off my make-up while you watch.
Look at those birds flying up in the sky,
Big or small they stay in pairs,
but human life is full of mistakes and setbacks.
I will forever wait for your return.”

Poem – The Mocking Bird

What! Is the mocking bird come?
The Spring, he comes to say,
The Spring is here today.
All sounds, all words he knows.
His feathers preen how he will,
He is the same bird still.

Where flowers most thickly screen,
Difficult to be seen,
His varying notes deride
The topmost boughs between.
If out of time he chide.
Lo! slander at your side!

Poem – To Bi Sayao

Once stately figures in the art of rhyme,
Now sadly down at heels, our careers in ruin,
Regarded by our servants with disdain,
We are grown old and gray before our time.
Yet in your joyful, carefree company,
The most consoling thought occurs to me:
Though we are doomed to poverty and strife,
Our poems shall have a long and prosperous life.

Poem – Dreaming of Li Po

After the separation of death one can eventually swallow back
one’s grief, but
the separation of the living is an endless, unappeasable anxiety.
From
pestilent Chiang-nan no news arrives of the poor exile. That my
old friend
should come into my dream shows how constantly he is in my
thoughts. I fear
that this is not the soul of a living man: the journey is so
immeasurably far.
When your soul left, the maple woods were green: on its return
the passes were
black with night. Lying now enmeshed in the net of the law,
how did you find
wings with which to fly here? The light of the sinking moon illumines
every
beam and rafter of my chamber, and I half expect it to light up your face.
The
water is deep, the waves are wide: don’t let the water-dragons get you.

All day long the floating clouds drift by, and still the wanderer
has not
arrived! For three nights running I have repeatedly dreamed of you.
Such
affectionate concern on your part shows your feelings for me!
Each time you
said goodbye you seemed so uneasy. It isn't easy to come',
you would say
bitterly;
The waters are so rough. I am afriad the boat will capsize!’.
Going
out of my door you scratched your white head as if your whole life’s ambition
had been frustrated.
The Capital is full of new officials, yet a man like this is so wretched!
Who is going to tell me that the `net is wide’ when this ageing man
remains in difficulties? Imperishable renown is cold comfort when you can only
enjoy it in the tomb!

Poem – Old Couple’s Departure

The four outskirts are not yet safe and quiet,
I am old, but have no peace.
All my sons and grandsons died in battle;
it’s no use to keep my body alone in one piece.
Throwing away my walking stick, I walk out the door.
The other soldiers are saddened, pitying me.
I’m lucky to still have all my teeth
but I regret the marrow has dried in my bones.
Wearing a soldier’s helmet and armor,
I salute my officers before departure.
My old wife is lying in the road weeping.
The year is late and her clothes thin.
Though I know at heart this is our death-farewell,
her shivering in cold still hurts me.
I know I will never come back,
yet hear her out when she says, “Eat more!”
The city wall around Earth Gate is very strong,
and the Xingyuan ferry is hard for the enemy to cross,
so the situation is different from the siege of Ye City,
and I will have some time before I die.
In life we part and we rejoin;
we have no choice, young or old.
I recall my young and strong days,
and walk about with long sighs.
War has spread through ten thousand countries
till beacon fires blaze from all the peaks.
So many corpses that grass and trees stink like fish,
rivers and plains dyed red with blood.
Which land is the happy land?
How can I linger here!
I abandon my thatched house
and feel my liver and lungs collapse.

Poem – Looking At Mountain Tai

How is Mountain Tai?
Its green is seen beyond State Qi and State Lu,
a distillation of creation’s spirit and beauty.
Its slopes split day into Yin and Yang.
Its rising clouds billow in my chest.
Homecoming birds fly through my wide-open eyes.
I should climb to the summit
and in one glance see all other mountains dwarfed.