Reading the Poetry of Meng Chiao
Night: reading Meng Chiao’s poems,
Characters fine as cow’s hair.
By the cold lamp, my eyes blur and swim.
Good passages I rarely fine—
Lone flowers poking up from the mud—
But more hard words than the Odes or Li sao—
Jumbled rocks clogging the clear stream,
Making rapids too swift for poling.
My first impression is of eating little fishes—
What you get’s not worth the trouble;
Or of boiling tiny mud crabs
And ending up with some empty claws.
For refinement he might compete with monks
But he’ll never match his master Han Yü.
Man’s life is like morning dew,
A flame eating up the oil night by night.
Why should I strain my ears
Listening to the squeaks of this autumn insect?
Better lay aside the book
And drink my cup of jade-white wine.
From Encyclopedia Britannica:
Su Shi, Wade-Giles romanization Su Shih, courtesy name (zi) Zizhan, literary name (hao) Dongpo Jushi, also called Su Dongpo (born January 8, 1037, Meishan [now in Sichuan province], China—died August 24, 1101, Changzhou, Jiangsu province), one of China’s greatest poets and essayists, who was also an accomplished calligrapher and a public official.
From World eBook Library:
Burton Watson (born 1925) is an accomplished translator of Chinese and Japanese literature and poetry. He has received awards including the Gold Medal Award of the Translation Center at Columbia University in 1979, the PEN Translation Prize in 1995 for his translation with Hiroaki Sato of From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, and again in 1995 for Selected Poems of Su Tung-p’o.