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.
More Chinese poetry translations in this blog.
Home page for my Wang Wei translations.