In the Qin country, feeling autumn come while staying with the priest Yuan
(translated by William P. Coleman)
I once wished a single hill to lie upon,
but three ways I made myself miserable, lacking money.
Being in the north was not what I wanted;
I think of my teacher in the eastern forest.
There’s yellow gold in the embers of burning cassia wood;
my firm intentions have run weak, one-by-one, with the years.
The sunlight turns to dusk and a cool wind comes;
I hear the cicada, but it only increases my grief.
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.
Also at the website Tang Shi — 300 Tang Poems, from Wengu — Chinese Classics and 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 Meng Haoran translations.