An Answer for Vice-Prefect Chung
(translated by William P. Coleman)
In my late years, only quiet seems good.
My heart’s not given to ten thousand things.
I take care of myself with no serious plan and,
empty of knowledge, go back to my former woods.
Wind blows in the pines and I loosen my sash;
In the rays of the mountain-moon, I pluck my lute.
Your question implies a tired man knows the inner logic —
the fisherman’s song goes out into the estuary, deep.
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.
And also on p. 186 of Yip, Wai-Lim. Chinese Poetry. Durham: 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.