Returning, Song Mountain
(translated by William P. Coleman)
The clear river is a belt, long and thin,
next to which the cart horse idles slowly.
It flows — the water — as if wanting to,
while, in dusk, each bird returns with another.
The desolate town faces an old ferry
as the setting sun fills the autumn hills.
From high, far, Songsham steps down in ridges
and I come back for now and close myself away, shut.
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.
Similar material is also available at Wengu — 300 Tang 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.