Su Shih

Su Shih was without any doubt the greatest poet of the Sung.

Su Shih
Even as a young boy in eleventh-century China, Su Shih was clearly special. After finding a rare inkstone, he began to write stories and verses expressing his love of the natural world. His words flowed effortlessly. His brush danced across the paper.

Su Shih grew up to become a leading scholar and statesman, eventually taking the name Su Dongpo. Integrating his love of natural order and humanity into his writings and civic works, Su Dongpo promoted justice and condemned corruption — often at his own peril. His life was rife with reversals of fortune; but through it all he retained his grace, his humility, and his compassion.

The Old Fisherman

       I
Where does the fisherman go for a drink
when his fish and his crabs are all sold?
He never sets himself a limit: just keeps on drinking ’til he’s drunk,
and neither he nor the bartender totes up his tab.

II

When the fisherman’s drunk, his straw cloak dances,
searching through drunkenness to find the way home.
Light skiff, the short oars akimbo:
and when he wakes up he never knows where.

III

The fisherman’s awakening: spring river’s noon.
A dream cut short by falling petals, floating silks.
Wine awakened, drunken still, and drunk, he’s still awake.
He smiles upon this world of men, both now and gone.

IV

The fisherman’s smile: a seagull floating,
lost in a river of mist and rain.
By the riverside, on horseback, an official’s come,
to hire his skiff, to ferry him on toward the south.

J.P. Seaton