Autumn, climbing Orchid Mountain and staying with Zhang
(translated by William P. Coleman)
The northern mountain is blanked in cloud;
for one who hides away, it’s pleasing — perfect.
So that we could visit each other, I’ve tried to climb high;
my heart follows along, like a wild goose, to exhaustion.
I worry because of the thin dusk that comes up,
but the clear autumn prevails and you can feel it.
It’s the hour to see village people returning;
they walk on the sand, rest at the ferry landing.
At the edge of the sky, the trees look like grass;
Near the river bank is an islet shaped like the moon.
How welcome if you met me with some wine!
We’d share, intoxicated together through the autumn festival.
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.