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.