Produced by David Starner, Jonathan Niehof and the Online
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Produced by David Starner, Jonathan Niehof and the Online
- A HUNDRED AND SEVENTY CHINESE POEMS
- MORE TRANSLATIONS FROM THE CHINESE
MORE TRANSLATIONS FROM THE CHINESE
ALFRED · A · KNOPF
PRINTED BY THE VAIL-BALLOU CO., BINGHAMTON, N.Y. ON WARREN’S INDIA TINT OLD STYLE PAPER
BOUND BY THE PLIMPTON PRESS, NORWOOD, MASS
This book is not intended to be representative of Chinese literature as a whole. I have chosen and arranged chronologically various pieces which interested me and which it seemed possible to translate adequately.
An account of the history and technique of Chinese poetry will be found in the introduction to my last book. Learned reviewers must not suppose that I have failed to appreciate the poets whom I do not translate. Nor can they complain that the more famous of these poets are inaccessible to European readers; about a hundred of Li Po’s poems have been translated, and thirty or forty of Tu Fu’s. I have, as before, given half my space to Po Chü-i, of whose poems I had selected for translation a much larger number than I have succeeded in rendering. I will give literal versions of two rejected ones:
Sunsets glow in-the-dark gradually nil.
Windy lotus shakes [like] broken fan;
Wave-moon stirs [like] string [of] jewels.
Crickets chirping answer one another;
Mandarin-ducks sleep, not alone.
Little servant repeatedly announces night;
Returning steps still hesitate.
Alone climbing, greet Spring, drink one cup.
Without limit excursion-people afar-off wonder at me;
What cause most old most first arrived!
While many of the pieces in “170 Chinese Poems” aimed at literary form in English, others did no more than give the sense of the Chinese in almost as crude a way as the two examples above. It was probably because of this inconsistency that no reviewer treated the book as an experiment in English unrhymed verse, though this was the aspect of it which most interested the writer.
In the present work I have aimed more consistently at poetic form, but have included on account of their biographical interest two or three rather unsuccessful versions of late poems by Po Chü-i.
For leave to reprint I am indebted to the editors of the English Review, Nation, New Statesman, Bulletin of School of Oriental Studies, and Reconstruction.
 “170 Chinese Poems,” New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1919.
[Fourth Century b.c.]
When Ch‘ü Yüan had been exiled from the Court for nine years, he became so despondent that he feared his soul would part from his body and he would die. It was then that he made the poem called “The Great Summons,” calling upon his soul not to leave him.
The vacant earth;
The white sun shineth;
Spring wind provoketh
To burst and burgeon
Each sprout and flower.
In those dark caves where Winter lurketh
Hide not, my Soul!
O Soul come back again! O, do not stray!
For to the East a mighty water drowneth Earth’s other shore;
Tossed on its waves and heaving with its tides
The hornless Dragon of the Ocean rideth:
Clouds gather low and fogs enfold the sea
And gleaming ice drifts past.
O Soul go not to the East,
To the silent Valley of Sunrise!
Where mile on mile the earth is burnt away
And poisonous serpents slither through the flames;
Where on precipitous paths or in deep woods
Tigers and leopards prowl,
And water-scorpions wait;
Where the king-python rears his giant head.
O Soul, go not to the South
Where the three-footed tortoise spits disease!
Where level wastes of sand stretch on and on;
And demons rage, swine-headed, hairy-skinned,
With bulging eyes;
Who in wild laughter gnash projecting fangs.
O Soul go not to the West
Where many perils wait!
To the Lame Dragon’s frozen peaks;
Where trees and grasses dare not grow;
Where a river runs too wide to cross
And too deep to plumb,
And the sky is white with snow
And the cold cuts and kills.
O Soul seek not to fill
The treacherous voids of the north!
In quietude enjoy
The lands of Ching and Ch‘u.
There work your will and follow your desire
Till sorrow is forgot,
And carelessness shall bring you length of days.
O Soul come back to joys beyond all telling!
Where thirty cubits high at harvest-time
The corn is stacked;
Where pies are cooked of millet and bearded-maize.
Guests watch the steaming bowls
And sniff the pungency of peppered herbs.
The cunning cook adds slices of bird-flesh,
Pigeon and yellow-heron and black-crane.
They taste the badger-stew.
O Soul come back to feed on foods you love!
Fresh turtle, and sweet chicken cooked in cheese
Pressed by the men of Ch‘u.
And pickled sucking-pig
And flesh of whelps floating in liver-sauce
With salad of minced radishes in brine;
All served with that hot spice of southernwood
The land of Wu supplies.
O Soul come back to choose the meats you love!
On every fowl they fare.
Boiled perch and sparrow broth,—in each preserved
The separate flavour that is most its own.
O Soul come back to where such dainties wait!
So that they grate not on the drinker’s throat.
How fragrant rise their fumes, how cool their taste!
Such drink is not for louts or serving-men!
And wise distillers from the land of Wu
Blend unfermented spirit with white yeast
And brew the li of Ch‘u.
O Soul come back and let your yearnings cease!
And Wei and Ch?ng
Gladden the feasters, and old songs are sung:
The “Rider’s Song” that once
Fu-hsi, the ancient monarch, made;
And the harp-songs of Ch‘u.
Then after prelude from the flutes of Chao
The ballad-singer’s voice rises alone.
O Soul come back to the hollow mulberry-tree!
Weaving their steps to the poet’s voice
Who speaks his odes and rhapsodies;
They tap their bells and beat their chimes
Rigidly, lest harp and flute
Should mar the measure.
Then rival singers of the Four Domains
Compete in melody, till not a tune
Is left unsung that human voice could sing.
O Soul come back and listen to their songs!
Seduce the eye;
But meek and virtuous, trained in every art;
Fit sharers of play-time,
So soft their flesh and delicate their bones.
O Soul come back and let them ease your woe!
And sidelong glances under moth-eye brows;
Whose cheeks are fresh and red;
Ladies both great of heart and long of limb,
Whose beauty by sobriety is matched.
Well-padded cheeks and ears with curving rim,
High-arching eyebrows, as with compass drawn,
Great hearts and loving gestures—all are there;
Small waists and necks as slender as the clasp
Of courtiers’ brooches.
O Soul come back to those whose tenderness
Drives angry thoughts away!
Whose every action is contrived to please;
Black-painted eyebrows and white-powdered cheeks.
They reek with scent; with their long sleeves they brush
The faces of the feasters whom they pass,
Or pluck the coats of those who will not stay.
O Soul come back to pleasures of the night!
And a high hall with beams stained red;
A little closet in the southern wing
Reached by a private stair.
And round the house a covered way should run
Where horses might be trained.
And sometimes riding, sometimes going afoot
You shall explore, O Soul, the parks of spring;
Your jewelled axles gleaming in the sun
And yoke inlaid with gold;
Or amid orchises and sandal-trees
Shall walk in the dark woods.
O Soul come back and live for these delights!
The roc and phœnix, and red jungle-fowl,
Whose cry at dawn assembles river storks
To join the play of cranes and ibises;
Where the wild-swan all day
Pursues the glint of idle king-fishers.
O Soul come back to watch the birds in flight!
Shall feel his cheeks aglow
And the blood-spirit dancing through his limbs.
Stay with me, Soul, and share
The span of days that happiness will bring;
See sons and grandsons serving at the Court
Ennobled and enriched.
O Soul come back and bring prosperity
To house and stock!
Shall teem with travellers as thick as clouds,
A thousand miles away.
For the Five Orders of Nobility
Shall summon sages to assist the King
And with godlike discrimination choose
The wise in council; by their aid to probe
The hidden discontents of humble men
And help the lonely poor.
O Soul come back and end what we began!
Fields, villages and lanes
Shall throng with happy men;
Good rule protect the people and make known
The King’s benevolence to all the land;
Stern discipline prepare
Their natures for the soft caress of Art.
O Soul come back to where the good are praised!
Shall be the reputation of our King;
His deeds, matched only in Heaven, shall repair
The wrongs endured by every tribe of men,—
Northward to Yu and southward to Annam
To the Sheep’s Gut Mountain and the Eastern Seas.
O Soul come back to where the wise are sought!
Behold with solemn faces in the Hall
The Three Grand Ministers walk up and down,—
None chosen for the post save landed-lords
Or, in default, Knights of the Nine Degrees.
At the first ray of dawn already is hung
The shooting-target, where with bow in hand
And arrows under arm,
Each archer does obeisance to each,
Willing to yield his rights of precedence.
O Soul come back to where men honour still
The name of the Three Kings.
 The harp.
 Yü, T‘ang and W?n, the three just rulers of antiquity.
To the Bachelor-of-Arts P‘ei Ti