I climb up high and look on the four seas,
Heaven and earth spreading out so far.
Frost blankets all the stuff of autumn,
The wind blows with the great desert's cold.
The eastward-flowing water is immense,
All the ten thousand things billow.
The white sun's passing brightness fades,
Floating clouds seem to have no end.
Swallows and sparrows nest in the wutong tree,
Yuan and luan birds perch among jujube thorns.
Now it's time to head on back again,
I flick my sword and sing Taking the Hard Road.
Written While on Night Duty at the Palace, to Send to Yuan Ninth
Ten thousand threads of thought, two sheets written:
before sealing them, I read them over, wonder if they’ll do.
The palace water clock has just sounded the fifth watch,
the lamp in the window, my one light, about to go out.
English version by Mei Hui Huang and Larry Smith
Original Language Japanese
In stubborn stupidity, I live on alone
befriended by trees and herbs.
Too lazy to learn right from wrong,
I laugh at myself, ignoring others.
Lifting my bony shanks, I cross the stream,
a sack in my hand, blessed by spring weather.
Living thus, I want for nothing,
at peace with all the world.
Your finger points to the moon,
but the finger is blind until the moon appears.
What connection has moon and finger?
Are they separate objects or bound?
This is a question for beginners
wrapped in seas of ignorance.
Yet one who looks beyond metaphor
knows there is no finger; there is no moon.
After examining the stump of the plum-tree outside the gate buried years ago,
there being as yet no sign,
back in my room after adjusting my icy shadow,
I unrolled and hung up on the eastward wall a painting of pink plum-blossom
by Master Ko-San.
Plum-blossom painting was a favorite pastime of people long ago, so suppose I
wash my face, at least, sit down and greet the old days?
On branches extending hesitantly to the left, five fully blooming flowers,
after bending it again, on the branches appearing on that part four buds now spread,
uh uh, five,
so on which of them do I wish I was now?
The love in retrospect
and the void in anticipation are crystal clear.
After full consideration, going out with icy shoulders
I once again squat before the plum-tree stump.
As the sound of evening bells comes close at dusk,
darkness comes, rocks come,
and someone’s eyes come too,
come . . .
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?
Light mist envelopes the dim moon and bright flowers,
A perfect night to go to her darling's side.
In stocking soles, she treads the fragrant steps,
And carries in one hand her gold threaded shoes.
They meet by the south side of the painted hall,
And trembling fall into each other's arms.
"It's hard for me to creep out like a servant,
To teach my darling the recklessness of love."
AT A BANQUET IN THE HOUSE
OF THE TAOIST PRIEST MEI
In my bed among the woods, grieving that spring must end,
I lifted up the curtain on a pathway of flowers,
And a flashing bluebird bade me come
To the dwelling-place of the Red Pine Genie.
...What a flame for his golden crucible --
Peach-trees magical with buds ! --
And for holding boyhood in his face,
The rosy-flowing wine of clouds!
A wanderer hears drums portending battle.
By the first call of autumn from a wildgoose at the border,
He knows that the dews tonight will be frost.
...How much brighter the moonlight is at home!
O my brothers, lost and scattered,
What is life to me without you?
Yet if missives in time of peace go wrong --
What can I hope for during war?
A Morning Dream by Li Ching Chao
This morning I dreamed I followed
Widely spaced bells, ringing in the wind,
And climbed through mists to rosy clouds.
I realized my destined affinity
With An Ch'i-sheng the ancient sage.
I met unexpectedly O Lu-hua
The heavenly maiden.
Together we saw lotus roots as big as boats.
Together we ate jujubes as huge as melons.
We were the guests of those on swaying lotus seats.
They spoke in splendid language,
Full of subtle meanings.
The argued with sharp words over paradoxes.
We drank tea brewed on living fire.
Although this might not help the Emperor to govern,
It is endless happiness.
The life of men could be like this.
Why did I have to return to my former home,
Wake up, dress, sit in meditation.
Cover my ears to shut out the disgusting racket.
My heart knows I can never see my dream come true.
At least I can remember
That world and sigh.
THE CITY OF STONES. (NANKING)
BY LIU YÜ-HSI
HILLS surround the ancient kingdom; they never change.
The tide beats against the empty city, and silently, silently, returns.
To the East, over the Huai River – the ancient moon.
Through the long, quiet night it moves, crossing the battlemented wall.
Dao is an empty vessel,
used without ever being filled,
unfathomably deep, the source of all things,
where sharpness blunts,
dust coalesces. So hidden, in nonbeing it is being.
Who knows whose child it is,
this ancestor of the gods?
Song of Sunset on the River
A strip of water's spread in the setting sun,
Half the river's emerald, half is red.
I love the third night of the ninth month,
The dew is like pearl; the moon like a bow.
The cows and sheep are moving slowly down,
Each villager has shut his wicker gate.
The wind and moon disturb the clear night,
This landscape of rivers and hills is not my homeland.
A spring flows from the stones of a darkening cliff,
The autumn dew drips on the grass's roots.
My white head is within the brightness of the lamp,
What need for the flower to flourish so?
Don't you see how grass on the riverbank
in winter withers and dies, yet in spring floods the road?
Don't you see how the sun above the walls
evaporates to nothing at dusk
yet tomorrow at dawn is reborn?
But how can we achieve that?
When dead we're dead forever, down in Yellow Springs.
Life has lavish bitterness, is stingy with joy,
and only the young are filled with endless zeal.
So let's just meet whenever we can
and always keep wine-money ready by our beds.
Who cares for rank and fame inscribed on bamboo and silk?
Life, death, acclaim, obscurity–leave them to heaven.
Cold, cold this third night of autumn
Rain makes me sleepy
Alone, this old man is contented and idle
It’s late when I extinguish the lamp and lie down
To sleep, listening to the beautiful sound of rain
Incense ashes still glowing in the burner
My only heat in this lodging
At daybreak, I will stay under the quilt to stay warm
And the steps will be covered by frosty red leaves