Friday, December 18, 2015

Dreaming in the Smoke

—Chu Shu-chen (c. 1200, trans. by Kenneth Rexroth)
The white moon gleams through scudding
Clouds in the cold sky of the Ninth
Month. The white frost weighs down the
Leaves and the branches bend low
Over the freezing water.
All alone I sit by my
Window. The crushing burden
Of the passing days never
Grows lighter for an instant.
I write poems, change and correct them,
And finally throw them away.
Gold chrysanthemums wither
Along the balcony. Hard
Cries of migrating storks fall
Heavily from the icy sky.
All alone by my window
Hidden in my empty room,
All alone, I burn incense,
And dream in the smoke, all alone.

How many wise men and heroes
Have survived the dust and dirt of the world?
How many beautiful women have been heroines?
There were the nobel and famous women generals
Ch’in Liang-yu and Shen Yü-yin.
Though tears stained their dresses
Their hearts were full of blood.
The wild strokes of their swords
Whistled like dragons and sobbed with pain.

The perfume of freedom burns my mind
With grief for my country.
When will we ever be pleased?
Comrades, I say to you,
Spare no effort, struggle unceasingly,
That at last peace may come to our people.
And jeweled dresses and deformed feet
Will be abandoned.
And one day, all under heaven
Will see beautiful free women,
Blooming like fields of flowers,
And bearing brilliant and nobel human beings.

—Ping Hsin (1879-1907, trans. by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung)

Bitter rain in my courtyard
In the decline of Autumn,
I only have vague poetic feelings
That I cannot bring together.
They diffuse into the dark clouds
And the red leaves.
After the yellow sunset
The cold moon rises
Out of the gloomy mist.
I will not let down the blinds
Of spotted bamboo from their silver hook.
Tonight my dreams will follow the wind,
Suffering the cold,
To the jasper tower of your beautiful flesh.

—Wu Tsao (19th Century, trans. by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung)

You held my lotus blossom
In your lips and played with the
Pistil. We took one piece of
Magic rhinoceros horn
And could not sleep all night long.
All night the cock’s gorgeous crest
Stood erect. All night the bee
Clung trembling to the flower
Stamens. Oh my sweet perfumed
Jewel! I will allow only
My Lord to possess my sacred
Lotus pond, and every night
You can make blossom in me
Flowers of fire.

—Huang O (1498-1569, trans. by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung)

—Chao Li-hua (1368-1644)

My boat goes west, yours east
heaven’s a wind for both journeys
from here the clouds and mountains
the horizon’s vague
a thousand miles
my heart, a dark swan
confused in that vastness

(trans. by J. P. Season)


Today’s LittleNip:

—Anonymous (c. 733, trans. by Willis Barnstone)

If snow falls on the far field
where travelers
spend the night,
I ask you, cranes,
to warm my child in your wings.

—Medusa, with thanks to today’s fine Chinese poets and anonymous artists from long ago! Far away in time though they may be, they shared our concerns and, like us, struggled to express themselves.