Friday, 18 June 2010

A Farewell

The sun goes down behind the mountains
and in the valleys the evenings dawn
with cool breezes and long shadows.

Oh, see! How like a silver barque
the moon floats on the heavenly sea.
Under the dark spruce I felt the breeze.

The streams sang louder and
the flowers glowed in the twilight
as Earth breathed peace and sleep.

All desires will soon be dreams
for tired men plodding wearily home
with forgotten happiness of youth.

Birds crouch in twigs. The world sleeps on.

The breeze blows cool through the spruce
where I stand and wait for my friend.
Where I wait to bid him a last farewell.

I yearn, O friend, to enjoy the beauty
of the evening at your side. Where are you?
I've been alone so long.

With my lute I wandered back and forth
on paths on which the soft grass swelled.
O beauty! O eternal love! O life!

When from his horse he dismounted
and handed me the parting drink. I asked
him where he must go, and why.

When he spoke his voice was choking:
"My friend, in this world
I've had little good fortune.

"So, where do I go? I go to the mountain.
To seek my peace for my heart, to see my town,
my home; not to stray abroad."

My heart is still and waits for the hour.

The dear Earth everywhere
newly blooms with green Spring.

All over, eternally, a distant blue sky!
Eternal... eternal...

after Hans Bethge, Emily Ezust, Mong-Kao-Jen & Wang Wei


  1. That is so powerful, Gwilym. I have read it over several times and keep getting blown away. A triumph!

  2. Yes - and the more I read it, the more I like it, particularly the 4th stanza (perhaps it's because I'm 50-something!)

    I keep thinking I'd like to play a lute - I've found myself playing lute music on my guitar recently, for one reason or another, and it gives me an itch for the real thing. Oh well, can't do everything! If days were 30 hours long...

  3. I'm glad you said that. I was trying to bring in some power as I thought the German, English and French translations were lacking it. I instinctively felt it was required but of course I couldn't prove it without the original Chinese which I couldn't read anyway. But I have a gut feeling that when we move poems from China to Europe we tend sometimes to be too soft on them. Ezra Pound almost uniquely wasn't and I'm even harder than him.

  4. The lute is good to have in such a poem. The strolling musican strums his chord. And all's well with the world...
    A fasle sense of security almost.


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