Anonymous Chinese ditty from almost 2000 years ago.
O flowery mountain slopes,
Now that my lover is dead
How can I live out my lonely life?
O my lover, if you still love me,
Open your sealed coffin for me,
And take me with you.
Why is it, with the world full of men
I am desolated, and long only for you?
I wish I were the ivy,
Climbing high in the pine tree,
And you were the moving clouds,
So we could see each other
As you pass by.
Spring Thoughts Sent to Tzu-An, to be precise, by Ya Hsuan-chi, all the way back in ninth century China.
The mountain road is steep, the stone steps are dangerous;
The hard climb hurts me less than thoughts of you.
Ice melts in a far stream: your voice in its sad tune.
Snow on cold peaks like jade reminds me of you.
Don’t listen to the singers, springsick with wine.
Don’t call your guests to play chess at night.
Like pine or stone our promise stays,
So I can wait for paired wings to join.
I walk alone in the cold end of winter.
Perhaps we’ll meet when the moon is round.
What can I give my absent man?
In the pure light, my tears fall: a poem.
By Chang Yang-hao, fourteenth century China
Masses of mountain peaks,
waves as if in a rage–
the road to T’ung Pass
winds among mountains and rivers.
Looking west to the capital,
my heart sinks.
Where the thousand armies
of Ch’in and Han once passed,
I grieve: ten thousand palaces
ground into dust for nothing.
Dynasties rise, people suffer;
dynasties fall, people die.
By Li Yu, 10th Century China.
Silent and alone, I ascend the west tower.
The moon is like a hook.
In solitude, the wu tung trees
Imprison the clear autumn in the deep courtyard.
Scissored but not severed,
Trimmed, but still massive:
It is the sorrow of parting,
Another strange flavor in the heart.
By Tu Mu, 9th Century China.
Bite back passion. Spring now sets.
Watch little by little the night turn round.
Echoes in the house; want to go up, dare not.
A glow behind the screen; wish to go through, cannot.
It would hurt too much, the swallow on a hairpin;
Truly shame me, the phoenix on a mirror.
On the road back, sunrise over Heng-t’ang.
The blossoming of the morning star shines farewell on the jeweled saddle.
By Lu Chih, China, c. 1243-1315.
I think a man’s seventy years are few!
Of his hundred years’ allotted span,
Thirty are lost.
Of his seventy years,
Ten are spent as a foolish child,
Ten are spent completely decrepit.
The fifty left divide into days and nights;
Only half have the light of day.
Wind and rain hasten one another,
The hare runs and the crow flies.
Carefully I ponder it all;
What’s better than
To be happy and at ease?
By Yang Wan-li (1124-1206)
Our boat going upstream barely moves by the inch;
The dark cliffs on both sides deepen into the dusk’s gloom
With a clap of thunder the heavens threaten rain;
A wind rushing in from the South Seas beyond the horizon
Angrily blasts the gorges asunder–
A hundred men shout and beat the big drums,
While a single swain flies up the towering mast.
When the sails are rigged, all hold their hands in their sleeves
And sit down to watch their boat–
a goose feather skimming over the waters.