Su Shi Su Tung-P’o (1037—1101)
Like an old friend, last year’s moon floats up east of the city. Haggard, depressed, the same man I was last year, I lie by the broken window. But the moon comes looking for me; her lovely beams slip into the room. How did the moon know I was sick? —She must have seen that the tower of songs was empty . . .
So I stroke my pillow, sigh three times and stand up, cane in hand, to follow the moon. The wind takes no pity on me— it sweeps me straight to the Jasper Palace. White dew fills my lungs and I chirp poems like an insect in the autumn night. At first I am a romantic Li Po, but soon I change into a suffering Meng Chiao. How many years do I have left? How many more beautiful moons will I see? And the fish—they can’t sleep either; all night they breathe on each other in the cold water.
(Translated on the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival, 1973)
Yüan Hung-tao (1568—1610)
A Memory Returned to Me and I Wrote This Down
Foggy moon, bird-calls in the flowers at dawn, in cold willow branches, orioles trembled on the edge of dream, The words, “Love Each Other,” were written on the pillow, and heavy incense curled from behind the curtains.
Her emotion had the lucidity of calm waters— red color came to her cheeks as she smiled! Back turned to the lamp, she removed her damp nightgown and asked her lover to gather up her earrings. Their tears of parting moistened the fragrant quilt, tenderness of love, fragile as the wings of the cicada! With silver tongs she stirred the ashes in the brazier and traced these words: “As Long as the Sky . . .” Lanterns hung from each story of the building: the red railing of the balcony gave on the avenue below.
This was the arena of our love that year— now I see only a tomb, overgrown with grass. From the roots of the maples, I hear the whispering of a ghost bearing the traces of her southern voice. The stagnant waters of this woman’s parted soul have been swept into rain over a mountain I do not know.
Old pine trees, their shaggy manes twirled in a dance by the wind;
row on row of tombs, one wisp of smoke rising from nowhere.
The lords and princes who once lived along Bronze Camel Avenue
have become the dust that settles on the traveler’s face,
The white poplar on top of the mountain has turned into an old woman
who spends each night in the fields, chasing away tigers of stone,
Officials come to this place, face north toward the Mausoleum of Longevity,
and give thanks that the crows who perch here speak Chinese.
The wild grass—green and misty; has there ever been an autumn which did not bring pain? This sick man’s house has no visitors— even my little dog sleeps all day, I must look in books for things to use in poems; no money for wine to warm me up, I put on extra clothes. The door shut, I read Chuang Tzu: the chapters on Horses’ Hoofs and The Floods of Autumn.
She has cut off her conch-shell hairdo, thrown away her eyebrow pencil;
one indulgence remains—a single cup of tea.
Her sandal-wood clappers now accompany Sanskrit chanting;
her silk dress has been recut: a makeshift cassock.
Her mind is like quiet water reflecting the moon.
Her body is a cold forest still putting forth blossoms.
How many times can you remember the hand of ordination on her brow?
Generation after generation, life after life spent in Buddhist temples.
Height after height of strange mountain scenes,
new words, new ideas in our conversation.
Wild pines blow in the wind like hanging manes;
the ancient rocks are covered with mottled scales.
I enter the temple, seek the dream-realm of the monks,
thumb through sutras, feel the dustiness of this traveler’s life.
You, the Zen master, I, a lover of wine—
we are brothers, way beyond the people of the world.