(translated by William P. Coleman)
I’m at leisure. Cassia blossoms fall, and
it’s a quiet night, solitary in the mountains.
The moon rises — and startles the mountain bird that
sings from time to time in the strong spring river.
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. 224 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 translations in:
Seaton, JP. The Shambhala Anthology of Chinese Poetry. Boulder: Shambhala, 2006. ISBN 1-57062-862-9.
Weinberger, Eliot. The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2004. ISBN 0-8112-1605-5.
Yu, Pauline. The Poetry of Wang Wei. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980. 0-253-17772-3.
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.