Stopping at the Incense Temple
(translated by William P. Coleman)
I didn’t know they store incense at the temple.
After a few li, I reach the clouded peaks —
through ancient trees with no path for people.
In the deep hills, a bell rings somewhere.
A spring makes sound — running through steep rocks
and the sun releases color from cold, green pines.
At dusk I bend over a deserted pool;
in peace, I meditate — and subdue dragons.
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 — at Chinese Poems.
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.
More Chinese poetry translations in this blog.
Home page for my Wang Wei translations.