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.
From 9th Century China, by Tu Mu
Snowy coats and snowy crests and beaks of blue jade
Flock above the fish in the brook and dart at their own shadows,
In startled flight show up far back against the green hills,
The blossoms of a whole pear tree shed by the evening wind.
By Yang Chi, 14th century China.
A five-color robe of embroidered silk;
Many flowers, and a few sparse branches.
Spring is here, and I’m afraid to put it on:
The butterflies might all land on me!