View From The Tower

 

It took me a while to translate this Verse from Song dynasty poet Liu Yong (987-1053):

 

View From The Tower

 

Alone I lean against the balustrade on a high tower,

With breeze bently blowing.

Peering into the distance,

Spring brings a skein of sorrow,

Indistinct from the far horizon.

Grass looks ashy in the fading light.

No one would know my unspoken feelings from the way I lean.

Planning to become wild and drunk.

Treating wine as songs,

Forcing myself to be merry.

Clothes and belts getting loose but nary a regret.

It is worth becoming haggard for her.

Song of the Begonia

 

A poet of the Song Dynasty, Liu Ke Zhuang (1187-1269) wrote Lyrics to a Song of Divination, with the title of

 

Song of the Begonia*

 

Petals light as wings of butterflies,

Flowers scattered llike scarlet dots.

Heaven doesn’t cherish flowers,

But countless varieties still charm.

Flourishing at daybreak on tree tops,

Few remain by dusk on the boughs.

When heaven cherishes flowers,

They’ll endure despite wind and rain.

 

 

*My translation

 

 

Phoenix Hairpin

Poets Lu You (1125-1210) and Tang Wen were deeply in love but forced by circumstances to divorce. They met again nine years later when Lu wrote Phoenix Hairpin on a garden wall and Tang replied with another. Here is my translation of their Song Verses:

 

Lu You’s Lyrics:

 

Fine, pink hands; yellow sealed wine –

The town is filled with Spring’s colours but

The willows remain trapped within the palace.

Fine east winds, short happiness –

Gloomy spirits, separated for years.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

 

Same old Spring, haggard looks,

Silk handkerchief stained pink with tears.

Peach blossoms fall, ponds and pavilions empty.

Oaths and promises remain but brocade undelivered.

No! No! No!

 

Tang Wan’s reply:

 

Sympathy is lacking, people are unkind,

Rain at dusk cause flowers to tumble.

Dry whipping winds, drying sad tears.

Wishing to unfold matters of the heart,

Murmuring alone by the banister.

Hard! Hard! Hard!

 

On our separate ways, we’re now different from before,

The ailing spirit often drifts and sways like the swing.

Cold horn signals, night will soon end.

Fear of being questioned,

Tears are awallowed to feign contentment.

Pretend! Pretend! Pretend!

Early Blossoms

This is a Tang poem by Zhang Wei (aound 778) which I translate as

 

Early Blossoms

 

Like strips of pristine white jade,

A tree of plum blossom stands;

At the end of a streamlet,

Near the bridge quite far away.

Would those nearer the streamlet

Flower and blossom first; or

Could they be frosty snowflakes

Still lingering on the twigs?

Listening to Music

Liu Chang Qin (709-785) is another Tang poet who is not very well-known.

 

But one of his poems stuck a chord with me:

 

Listening to Music

 

From the seven* strings come a sad melody,

As desolate as cold pine trees.

Though I love the old melodies,

People are not willing to play them these days.

 

* An ancient Chinese instrument, the Gu Qin, has seven strings.