Sunday, November 7, 2010

Autumn poems by Po Chü-i

Today was the end of daylight savings, a date which has all but formally replaced the equinox as our occasion for marking the shifting seasons. To celebrate (or mourn), tonight I am posting a few pieces from translator Dave Hinton's collection of Po Chü-i poems. Enjoy or else.

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Autumn Thoughts, Sent Far Away

We all share these disappointments of failing
autumn a thousand miles apart. This is where

autumn wind easily plunders courtyard trees,
but the sorrows of distance never scatter away.

Swallow shadows shake out homeward wings.
Orchid scents thin, drifting from the old thickets.

These lovely seasons and fragrant years falling
lonely away -- we share such emptiness here.

Cold Night in the Courtyard

Dew-stained bamboo seems like jade,
and blown curtain-shadow like waves.

As I grieve over falling leaves, bright
moons in the courtyard grow countless.

Ch'in Song in Clear Night

The moon's risen. Birds have settled in.
Now, sitting in these empty woods, silent

mind sounding the borders of idleness,
I can tune the ch'in's utter simplicities:

from the wood's nature, a cold clarity,
from a person's mind, a blank repose.

When mind's gathered clear calm ch'i,
wood can make such sudden song of it,

and after lingering echoes die away,
song fading into the depths of autumn night,

you suddenly hear the source of change,
all heaven and earth such depths of clarity.

Autumn Pool

My body's idle, doing perfectly nothing,
and mind, thinking perfectly nothing,

now more than ever. In this old garden
tonight, I've returned to my autumn pool,

shoreline dark now birds have settled in,
bridge incandescent under a rising moon.

Chestnut scents swell, adrift on a breeze,
and the cinnamon's a confusion of lit dew.

So much solitude in this far end of quiet,
an isolate mystery no one finally knows:

just a few words haunting a far-off mind,
asking why it took so long coming here.

In Answer to a Letter Sent by Liu Yü-Hsi on an Autumn Day

Grateful to escape such grave illness,
I'm happy to wither away at the root,

let this lamp gauge darkening eyes,
my belt measure this thinning waist.

On a day of frost turning leaves red,
in a time of hair gone white as snow,

I may grieve over old age coming on.
But once old age ends, I'm grief-free.

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