Thursday, November 17, 2011


A Poem by Wang Wei

Here is a poem by Wang Wei (699-759), translated by Kenneth Rexroth in One Hundred More Poems from the Chinese: Love and the Turning Year (New York: New Directions, 1970), p. 58, with the title Deep in the Mountain Wilderness:
Deep in the mountain wilderness
Where nobody ever comes
Only once in a great while
Something like the sound of a far off voice,
The low rays of the sun
Slip through the dark forest,
And gleam again on the shadowy moss.
The poem is more often known by the title Deer Park. Here is another translation, from Laughing Lost in the Mountains: Poems of Wang Wei. Translations by Tony Barnstone, Willis Barnstone, Xu Haixin (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1991), p. 27:
Nobody in sight on the empty mountain
but human voices are heard far off.
Low sun slips deep in the forest
and lights the green hanging moss.
David Hinton, The Selected Poems of Wang Wei (New York: New Directions, 2006), discusses the poem on pp. xviii-xx and translates it as follows on p. 40:
No one seen. Among empty mountains,
hints of drifting voice, faint, no more.

Entering these deep woods, late sunlight
flares on green moss again, and rises.
There is an entire book (which I haven't seen) devoted to translations of this poem — Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei: How a Chinese Poem is Translated. Exhibit & Commentary by Eliot Weinberger. Further Comments by Octavio Paz (Mount Kisco: Moyer Bell, 1987). There are also several translations into English and other languages here, and a good analysis in Zong-qi Cai, ed., How to Read Chinese Poetry: A Guided Anthology (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), pp. 207-209.

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