Su Tung-P’o — Written on the north tower wall after snow

Written on the north tower wall after snow

Su Tung-P’o

1037-1101 CE
(translated by William P. Coleman)

The yellow dusk produced a fine, fine rain,
but at night the calm, windless weather changed.

I felt it only like water droplets on my bed covers,
unaware of the snow heaped in the courtyard.

In the fifth watch, toward dawn, color returned to my study curtains,
and under a half moon, the sound of cold fell from the painted eaves.

I surveyed from the north tower and saw Horse Ears Mountain;
it was buried except for the two tips.

Greg Whincup, The Heart or Chinese Poetry I found the Chinese text and an English translation of this poem — along a with word-by-word literal translation I used to create this one — on pp. 36-8 of Greg Whincup’s book The Heart of Chinese Poetry, Anchor Books, 1987; ISBN 0-385-23967-X.

The grammar of Chinese allows poets to leave interpretive choices open, and it’s an unattainable ideal of translating to bring out possibilities without closing others. I try to use my sense of English to at least intrigue you. If I’ve succeeded, it’s best — even if you don’t know Chinese, which I don’t either — to follow up at the source I cite above and see the original word-by-word translation from which I worked. It’ll be richer than what I’ve given you. To understand the poem best, try to construct your own translation.

See the FAQ and the external links at Chinese Poems, a beautiful resource with many poems.

more Chinese poetry translations in this blog More Chinese poetry translations in this blog.
more Chinese poetry translations in this blog Home page for Su Tung P’o translations.

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