Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Freedom from Ten Thousand Matters

Wang Wei (699-759), To Subprefect Chang (tr. Irving Y. Lo):
In late years, I love only the stillness,
The world's affairs no longer trouble my heart.
Looking at myself: no far-reaching plans;
All I know: to return to familiar woods—
The pine winds blow and loosen my sash;
The mountain moon shines upon me playing the lute.
You ask for reasons for failure or success—
Fisherman's song enters the riverbanks deep.
The same, tr. Witter Bynner and Kiang Kang-hu:
As the years go by, give me but peace,
Freedom from ten thousand matters.
I ask myself and always answer,
What can be better than coming home?
A wind from the pine-trees blows my sash,
And my lute is bright with the mountain-moon.
You ask me about good and evil? ...
Hark, on the lake there's a fisherman singing!
The same, tr. Tony Barnstone, Willis Barnstone, and Xu Haixin:
In old age I ask for peace
and don't care about things of this world.
I've found no good way to live
and brood about getting lost in my old forests.
The wind blowing in the pines loosens my belt,
the mountain moon is my lamp while I tinkle my lute. You ask,
how do you succeed or fail in life?
A fisherman's song is deep in the river.
The same, tr. Cyril Birch:
In evening years given to quietude,
The world's worries no concern of mine,
For my own needs making no other plan
Than to unlearn, return to long-loved woods:
I loosen my robe before the breezes from pines,
My lute celebrates moonlight on mountain pass.
You ask what laws rule "failure" or "success"—
Songs of fishermen float to the still shore.
The same, tr. David Hinton:
In these twilight years, I love tranquillity
alone. Mind free of all ten thousand affairs,

self-regard free of all those grand schemes.
I return to my old forest, knowing empty.

Soon mountain moonlight plays my ch'in,
and pine winds loosen my robe. Explain this

inner pattern behind failure and success?
Fishing song carries into shoreline depths.

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