Returning to Live in the South 5
(translated by William P. Coleman)
Disappointed, distressed, on a lone cane I come home
over a rugged path passing some bushes along a curve.
A mountain stream, clear and shallow,
is there to wash my feet.
I could strain a pot of new-ready wine
and, with a single chicken, invite my neighbors.
The sun enters a room that’s dark,
where bramble firewood makes do for lighted candles.
Delight comes, and the night-sadness is short:
the dawn already reaches back into the sky.
I found the Chinese text and an English translation of this poem — along with the word-by-word literal translation I used to create this one — on pp. 166-7 of Wai-Lim Yip’s book Chinese Poetry: an Anthology of Major Modes and Genres, Duke University Press, 1997; ISBN 0-8223-1946-2.
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.