The Bamboo Grove
(translated by William P. Coleman)
Alone I sit, dark, among bamboos;
I pluck my qín, or whistle Taoist breathing.
Deep in forest, no one can know:
the bright moon visits me and shines.
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 p. 226 of Wai-Lim Yip’s book Chinese Poetry: an Anthology of Major Modes and Genres, Duke University Press, 1997; ISBN 0-8223-1946-2.
I also consulted the English translation in:
Seaton, JP. The Shambhala Anthology of Chinese Poetry. Boulder: Shambhala, 2006. ISBN 1-57062-862-9, p. 85.
Yu, Pauline. The Poetry of Wang Wei. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980. 0-253-17772-3, p. 204.
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.