Han Yu


Poem Written After Drinking Too Much

The morning star’s
already shining
are long since drunk
no longer
they’ve mellowed
slow down
brush strokes
stagger and lose
track-how rare
such self
wine prices
drink up!

Kenneth O. Hanson

Poem for Mr. Chang on the Night of the August Moon

Thin clouds dissolve
in a sky so high the
Milky Way gets lost. Wind
curs through the the vacant heavens.
Unadulterated moonlight
glints on the crests of waves
as sound and shadow descend
on sand and the quiet water.

One glass of wine
we’ll drink before
you sing your song.
Its eleagant despair
falls on the bitter air
trenchant as rain.

Kenneth O. Hansen

A Pond in a Jardiniere

Old men are like little boys:
I draw water, fill the jardiniere to make a tiny pond.
All night green frogs gabble till dawn,
just like the time I went fishing at Fang-k’ou.

My ceramic lake in dawn, water settled clear,
numberless tiny bugs -I don’t know what you call them;
suddenly they dart and scatter, not a shadow left;
only a squadron of baby fish advancing.

Pond shine and sky glow, blue matching blue;
a few bucketfulls of water poured is all that laps these shores.
I`ll wait until the night is cold, the bright moon set,
then count how many stars come swimming here,

Burton Watson

Mountain Rocks

Ragged mountain rocks efface the path .
Twilight comes to the temple and bats hover .
Outside the hall I sit on steps and gaze at torrential new rain .
Banana leaves are wide, the cape jasmine is fat .
A monk tells me the ancient Buddhist frescos are good
and holds a torch to show me, but I can barely see .
I lie quiet in night so deep even insects are silent.
From behind a rise the clear moon enters my door .
In the dawn I am alone and lose myself,
wandering up and down in mountain mist.
Then colors dazzle me : mountain red, green stream ,
and a pine so big, ten people linking hands can’t encircle it.
Bare feet on slick rock as I wade upstream.
Water sounds shhhh, shhhh. Wind inflates my shirt.
A life like this is the best.
Why put your teeth on the bit and let people rein you in?
O friends, my party of gentlemen ,
how can we grow old without returning here ?

Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping

The Shih Ching , usually translated as either The Book of Songs or the Classic of Poetry, is the first great collection of Chinese poetry. Tradition says that it was edited into its present form by the Sage of Sages, Confucius himself. In fact the book was assembled before, during, and after the life of Confucius. Its more than three hundred poems include fragments of works as old as the Shang Dynasty (traditional; dates 1766-1154 BCE) as well as “contemporary” poems from the Chou feudal states written or spoken by both aristocratic court figures and just plain “folks”. A great deal has been said about the origin of many, if not the majority of the poems as oral “folk” art, but it is clear from the artistry of the written language in which they have been handed down that, like the scribes who improved upon the originally oral poetry attributed to “Homer” in the West to create the Iliad and the Odyssey, the people who converted Chou folk songs and court verses into poetry in written Chinese characters clearly thought of themselves as (and were) artists. So the characters used to render simple and direct lyrical utterances of the illiterate peasant folk often honor them with carefully chosen written vocabulary: the heart and soul of folk art remains clearly present, but literary subtleties are introduced. The scribes who created the Shih Ching were poets, not tape recorders. They chose the best of what existed, and they honored it with their own art.

In its present form, the Shih Ching consists of three major sections, the Kuo Feng, or Odes of the States, comprising 160 of the 300 are generally but not always folk songs. The Ya (Elegant Verses) subdivided with no obvious criteria into greater and lesser, include poems 161-265, and the Sung or Temple Odes high ritual songs and bits of dynastic myth, include poems 266-305. The present selection is comes, all but a single longer poem on drinking and its positive and negative consequences from the “Lesser Elegants”, all come from the Kuo Feng Sections.

Knowledge of the Shih Ching poems was a necessity of diplomatic practice around the time of Confucius, when it was a common practice to deliver or at least support the delivery of diplomatic messages among the feudal domains (the “States or Guo of the Guo Feng) by oral presentation of relevant lines from the Classic. From the Han on many of the poems where imbued with very specific allegorical interpretations, but it is clear that later poets, who memorized the book word for word, used it as allusive material in their own poems at least as often for its plain “folk” messages as for its orthodoxly approved allegorical ones.