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Wang River Estate Poems by Wang Wei and Pei Ti

translated from the Táng Dynasty by Joseph Lisowski



Below the ancient city's wall lies

My thatched hut.  In time I'll climb

Those old walls in disrepair

Where others now merely pass by.


By this new home near the old city wall

Ancient trees fringe weeping willows.

Here anyone can begin again, but first

The heart must be empty of sorrow.




A dappled sunset, and the pine wind rises.

Turning to home, I  notice the grass thin, spare.

Above, clouds patch like footprints

The dazzling mountain, dampening our robes.


Birds ride the currents endlessly

Against the autumn-splashed mountain.

Up and down Hua-Tzu Hill they soar—

What sadness my heart bears!




In the distance grainy apricots stands like a house—

I've traveled to them many times

Along South Mountain and to North Lake

Where I gazed once and returned to look again.


The grainy apricots are cut into beams,

Their fragrance woven into a roof like heaven.

I do not know what supports the clouds.

Men once braced the gentle rain.




Bright flowing stream smooth and straight,

Tender bamboo thick and deep.

There's one direct path to the mountain road

Where I walk and sing looking at the peak.


Sandalwood flowers shine along the empty crooked path.

Green then blue waves splash endlessly.

It's such a long, dark way to the mountain road

Not even woodmen know.




Morning and night I see Cold Mountain

Then to be alone, an unattended guest.

Not knowing the way of pine groves,

I only follow the tracks of deer and doe.


On the empty mountain no one is seen.

There's only the sound of voices.

Light enters dazzling the deep grove

And again the moss is brilliant green.




Bright green mists at sunset,

Birds chirp wildly against the swift stream.

Its green current runs deep

Then dark a long, long time.


Autumn mountains compress the bursting light.

Flying birds press close to one another.

Bright clouds, blue flashing bright—

The evening mist stops at no place.





Wind-borne dogwood scent against pepper and cinnamon,

Leaves spread quietly from the sandalwood tree.

Clouds mask the sun even if it returns bright.

In the deep forest, I still feel the chill.


Cornels on the same tree are red and green.

Like flowers which bloom again and again

The mountain wishes to keep its guest,

Holding him within like a hibiscus cup.




The river's voice whispers to the distant shore

Along a path to South Ferry

Ducks floating, sea gulls flying across.

Time and again they drift close to men.


A gust suddenly rises in the autumn rain.

The shallow stream breaks against the rocks.

Waves ripple, dashing into each other.

A white heron shrieks then dives.




Drifting and stopping, it's too deep to flow.

Gold and jade are left to gather—

To meet dawn with white silken flowers,

Going alone to fetch morning water.


To drink daily from Gold-Dust spring.

Few act as many years remain.

The iridescent phoenix hovers near the pied dragon,

Winging at dawn to the Jade Emperor.




Standing on the rocks, gazing at the water below,

Watching the play of ripples is endless pleasure.

At sunset, it's cold on the river.

Clouds drift by, ordinary, without color.


White Rock Rapids are clear but shallow.

Green rushes bunch rustling nearby.

Houses stretch east and west of the water.

Women wash gauze under a bright moon.




On North Hillock  of South Mountain

A thatched cottage overlooks Lake Yi.

Everyone leaves to gather firewood.

A flat boat drifts from the rushes.


At North Hillock, north of the lake,

Brilliant trees are reflected; a red railing

Winds along the south river's edge

Bright like fire against the green grove.




I come humbly to the bamboo grove

Each day hoping to embrace the Way.

Going and coming, there are only mountain birds.

In the profound dark, there is no one.


Alone I sit within the dark bamboo

Strumming my lute, whistling along

In the deep grove no one knows

The bright moon, how we shine together.




On a green knoll covered with spring grass,

The princely lord loiters alone.

Among the Hsin-yi flowers

The red hibiscus vibrate.


From the end of its branch, the hibiscus flowers.

From the mountain's depth, red stems push.

Along a mountain stream, a vacant cabin stands

Amid the hibiscus endless bloom and fall.





At the south gate of the palace is ash tree path,

A window facing Lake Yi.

Autumn comes to the mountains with heavy rain.

The fallen leaves remain unswept.


Slanted and straight ash trees shade the palace.

In the dark shadow, moss is all the more green.

At the right gate only, one must sweep

With dread for the mountain monk comes.




From the window a rippling of waves,

The solitary moon drifts back and forth.

From the gorge shoot gibbons' cries.

The wind carries them to where I sit.


A light barge for the welcome guests

Comes from far up the lake.

Before the windows, they toast wine.

Everywhere hibiscus begin to open.




A lone boat moors leeward.

At South Hillock, lake waters lap the bank.

The sun sets behind Mount Yen Tzu.

Clear ripples against the immense watery main.


A light boat sails to South Hillock.

From North Hillock there's a panic of water.

At shore, a man looks towards home

So distant, so far, he can hardly remember.




Such immense emptiness, the lake's without limit.

Dazzling blue water and sky alike.

Anchor the boat with one long whistle.

From every direction, good winds blow.


Flute music sounds from beyond the shore.

Sunset accompanies my honored guest.

On the lake, I turn my head

To green mountains, white curling clouds.




The pond shimmers with one color.

Its wind-blown surface rustles like silk.

A good place to weave shadows.

Who needs to thank T'ao Ch'ien?


From rows of silk trees after silk trees

Shadows strike the clear waves

Randomly, not like the palace moat.

Spring winds bring sorrow, distress, farewell.




Love of leisure is as natural as morning sun.

I accept the fruits born of my past.

Today, I amble through the lacquer-tree garden

And return to the joy Chuang Tzu felt.


The ancient sage was no proud official.

He voided the warp and weave of the world

And held only a trifling position, casually regarded,

Like an old woman sauntering among twigs of trees.




Red thorns might snag robes

But the lovely scent beckons.

Such a wonderful blend of spices

Invites the Prince to gather a few.


There's cinnamon wine for the Son of Heaven,

Sweet pollice for the elegant man.

A pepper broth served at the precious mat

As if to invite the Lord of Clouds.


Joseph Lisowski retired as a university professor in 2015,  hoping that, at last, he would have time/energy to read/revise what he had written (poems, meditations, reflections, stories) and abandoned/neglected for over ten years. This plan worked far better than he hoped.  By the end of February, he was researching literary markets and sending things out.  The result:  beginning in March to the end of July, Lisowski had 36 poems published or accepted for publication, not counting the 20 translations in KNOT Magazine, and 44 short meditations/reflections entitled The Mary Dialogues.  

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