In the mountains, a question and an answer
(translated by William P. Coleman)
You ask me what my idea is, staying in the green mountains?
I smile but have no reply, my heart at peace in itself.
A peach blossom on the flowing water goes into the distance;
there is another heaven and earth, not among people.
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 — and very helpful notes — on pp. 3-5 of Whincup, Greg. The Heart of Chinese Poetry. Garden City: Anchor Press, Doubleday, 1987. ISBN0-385-23967-X.
Also at Chinese 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 Li Bai translations.