murphy’s bai ju yi later years 100s

bai ju yi 100 entering sixty six
bai ju yi 101 yes, you know the underlying principles master bai
bai ju yi 102 a song of old age, shown to the household
bai ju yi 103 responding to a poem from niu seng ru
bai ju yi 104 a question for friends
bai ju yi 105 autumn five years later (1 of 3)
bai ju yi 106 autumn five years later (2 of 3)
bai ju yi 107 autumn five years later (3 of 3)
bai ju yi 108 old, sick, and living alone
bai ju yi 109 sing a sad song
bai ju yi 110 sipping wine 1-25-833
bai ju yi 111 mourning three friends (1 of 2)
bai ju yi 112 an old man
bai ju yi 113 nothing of the best
bai ju yi 114 inviting guests to drink beneath the camellia
bai ju yi 115 mourning three friends (2 of 2)
bai ju yi 116 moved by old poems
bai ju yi 117 out for a stroll
bai ju yi 118 song mountain, lo river
bai ju yi 119 getting old, sent to meng de
bai ju yi 120 after an illness, sitting alone in the new pavilion waiting for a friend
bai ju yi 121 drinking left over wine, my evening meal
bai ju yi 122 how long has my sickness been
bai ju yi 123 singing to myself at the mirror
bai ju yi 124 sick on new year’s day
bai ju yi 125 my little house
bai ju yi 126 a drunken party at “level springs”
bai ju yi 127 enjoying the moon festival with friends
bai ju yi 128 a question for the crane
bai ju yi 129 emotional
bai ju yi 130 waking, an impromptu poem
bai ju yi 131 ready to return
bai ju yi 132 talking to the wine
bai ju yi 133 tasting the new wine
bai ju yi 134 sent to meng de
bai ju yi 135 early morning heat
bai ju yi 136 passing duke pei’s home
bai ju yi 137 left at lang zhi’s cassis pavilion
bai ju yi 138 urging wine on meng de
bai ju yi 139 youth and age
bai ju yi 140 after a sickness, going to see meng de
bai ju yi 141 illness and old age press on me
bai ju yi 142 rising with difficulty i wish to welcome spring, sent to meng de
bai ju yi 143 sailing in the small boat (1 of 2)
bai ju yi 144 sailing in the small boat (2 of 2)
bai ju yi 145 remembering jiang nan (3 of 3)
bai ju yi 146 remembering jiang nan (1 of 3)
bai ju yi 147 remembering jiang nan (2 of 3)
bai ju yi 148 a song of idleness
bai ju yi 149 what to do in early summer
bai ju yi 150 a spring visit
bai ju yi 151 apprehension (1 of 2)
bai ju yi 152 apprehension (2 of 2)
bai ju yi 153 encouraging the duke to entertain
bai ju yi 154 the sorrow of spring, sent to intendant li
bai ju yi 155 ill
bai ju yi 156 seeing off collator li
bai ju yi 157 sent to meng de
bai ju yi 158 a morning stroll in the forest
bai ju yi 159 drinking wine before the new year, thinking of meng de
bai ju yi 160 sick, but sitting peacefully
bai ju yi 161 finding a peaceful spot for a sick old man
bai ju yi 162 a song for planting peaches
bai ju yi 163 open the collar
bai ju yi 164 an edict
bai ju yi 165 a chance composition (1 of 2)
bai ju yi 166 a chance composition (2 of 2)
bai ju yi 167 rainy night in early autumn
bai ju yi 168 a morning’s penchant
bai ju yi 169 restful sleep
bai ju yi 170 willow branch song
bai ju yi 171 the lodge at west pavilion
bai ju yi 172 at the north window with my three friends
bai ju yi 173 singing what pleases me
bai ju yi 174 viewing the moon in the little courtyard
bai ju yi 175 wild words for my nieces
bai ju yi 176 rising late after a heavy snow, sent to my three friends in the capital
bai ju yi 177 a little song
bai ju yi 178 i sing my feelings
bai ju yi 179 leaving office, returning to my hut
bai ju yi 180 a small boat on the pond
bai ju yi 181 an aside to my students, after drinking
bai ju yi 182 year’s end
bai ju yi 183 leaving public office
bai ju yi 184 looking in the mirror, delighting in old age
bai ju yi 185 responding to a priest who makes a sick call
bai ju yi 186 new words for the song chang zhou
bai ju yi 187 feelings when passing by pei du’s old home after a snow
bai ju yi 188 sickly feelings at year’s end, sent to meng de
bai ju yi 189 an explanation
bai ju yi 190 drinking wine on a warm day, sent to meng de
bai ju yi 191 stopping moxibustion
bai ju yi 192 seeing off a guest leaving song mountain
bai ju yi 193 the first sickly winds
bai ju yi 194 seeing off governor li of su zhou
bai ju yi 195 poem of harmony
bai ju yi 196 prefect li calls on recluse xu, man of the mountains
bai ju yi 197 returning to the eastern capital at night
bai ju yi 198 white hairs
bai ju yi 199 the fourth year’s spring spent in idleness






entering sixty six

how can one make a celebration
about seventy less four of years
surrounded by discussions of death
ever saddened by friends’ demise

i’m glad overall at being alive
my hair can’t stay forever black
and who can still see small details

but my friends now are graveside trees
my servants have great grandchildren
and i have lost much weight
the sash at my waist feels heavy

moldering away, a withered old man
my white hairs only clusters, mere patches
no one can control the onset of old age
best make oneself ready for the empty gate






yes, you know the underlying principles master bai

yes, you already know, master bai
the underlying principles of it all
you were an official in the eastern capital
having served for thirteen years, til age seventy
now you are retired on only half salary
yet you still go out with guests on spring pleasures
you still sit zazen nights with mountain priests

you’ve totally ignored family things
for at least the last two years i hear
the kitchen servant tells you one morning
that the salt and rice are gone
the waiting maid complains in the evening
how all the clothes are torn
your wife and child are displeased
nephews, nieces, unhappy

so i, lying down drunk, oblivious
now get up to plan with you my wife
how can we dispose of some properties
perhaps first the ten hectare lot
and our gardens in the south ward
later we can sell the house too
altogether we should get several thousand
half to you for food and clothes expenses
half to me for wine, meat, and ready money

i’m 71 and my eyes are blurred
white haired, winds whirling in my head
i’m sure i won’t spend all the money
before i vanish like morning dew
and return to the springs of endless night

it’s not so bad not going to the springs
living on, still hungry for food
still satisfied with a good night’s sleep
dead or alive, that’s just one or the other
yes, you already know, master bai
the underlying principles of it all

murphy solid in his commitment to effort






a song of old age, shown to the household

my long life is now reaching to seventy five
i have fifty thousand in emoluments
my wife and i are growing old together
living with nieces and nephews

the new rice this years is especially good
old cotton changed for new thick warmth
so many of us in the household
but all will be taken care of

i will place a shrine in front of the screen
move the stove over by the green bed curtains
so i can have room to look around
so i can hear my grandchildren read aloud

so i have some time to answer my poet friends
so i can practice my racing brush-hand

so i can pawn my clothes for herb money
with nothing more to do than take my ease
i can have some one come to scratch my back
i can lie out in the sun and go to sleep

murphy truly thankful for the ease of retirement






responding to a poem from niu seng ru

every time you come to stay at the hall of officials
we spend time together reminiscing
about hua yang star-tower
i remember, long ago, going home, tired and sad
the rice was gone, the mud deep
together we borrowed donkeys to ride

of those at that gathering back then
only i remain here to answer you
who is left of the eminent of those days
we two can still look at each other though, hair all white
don’t leave yet, please, share another cup

murphy at harvard, hobnobbing with the power elite






a question for friends

seventy is hard to reach, still rarer seventy-three

i plant flowers beside a rustic old temple
i pawn court garments to buy special wine
i enjoy tipsiness, especially in the spring
spending all day wandering where i will
i often get back after a few nights have passed

what say you, friends, right or wrong

murphy arguing with himself






autumn five years later (1 of 3)

a good five years i haven’t visited dragon gate temple
i’m here tonight though, who can imagine my feeling
i stay in the abbot’s room viewing the new autumn moon
ponder its color, listen to the sound, the spring below

murphy good at quieting self






autumn five years later (2 of 3)

where are all my drinking friends
those who sang along with me
gone now, i’ll never see them again
rain spatters outside, clouds scud by

from now on in my life
on the nights of moon and breeze
when i visit fragrant mountain
i will always be alone

murphy sizing up the situation






autumn five years later (3 of 3)

by the banks of stone basin stream
on top of the old stone tower
days and nights i’ve spent there
frolicking with all my friends

and when the new year comes
i will enter the age of seventy
even though i am fit and healthy
i should give it all up, finally retire

murphy wondering why he waited so long






old, sick, and living alone

my eyes are quite blurred, i’m growing deaf
wrinkled old head topped with frost and snow
a body so frail it’s a kite in the wind
my heart out beyond the highest clouds

yet still my body lives, in this, the earthly inn
i’ve given up wine and poetry, closed the guest room
dismissed the musicians and singers
my favorite room emptied of my two concubines

all affinities with worldy entanglements unknotted
being purified for its last journey in this world of men

murphy still dancing along






sing a sad song

i see myself in the fresh-polished mirror
my newly-washed bedraggled hair
old age creeping steady its change
water seeping its way downhill

most news i hear, friends who are gone
everyone around me, children or younger
northern goose at home in his warmth of the south

river flows down to die in the breakers
this decayed old face cannot stay time’s tread

i get a little drunk, sing a slow-sad song

murphy happy to sit in the quiet






bai ju yi 110 sipping wine 1-25-833

who doesn’t worry about getting old
yet i, falling apart, delight in spring
extend your fingers and then count
how many can make it to the sixties

murphy beginning to note the erosion of his age group






mourning three friends (1 of 2)

three good gone, lost to the long night
this man here, who knows what’s left
autumn winds, sleeves wet with tears
all my friends, down by nether springs

murphy feeling truly abandoned by the world






an old man

going to parties in lo yang now,
it’s been seven or eight years
for every three party goers then,
two are dead and gone by now
standing in an evening breeze
below bright fulsome moon
within spring garden of flowers all i have left is myself, an old man

affairs of the world trouble the heart
but neither wealth nor eminence
is the real purpose of one’s life
the real thing is to find delight and joy

who can come visit and sit idly here with me
sharing a jug of wine and singing our songs

murphy reverting to form given half a chance






nothing of the best

don’t belittle my small, narrow house
don’t be upset by the poverty of my ways
i know i have nothing that is of the best
but can i not now be a mere idle man

i can sleep on green bamboo mats
black cotton good enough for my turban
all other things i need are here with me
where i can still uphold my self, my identity

murphy never losing the feeling of being a parvenu






inviting guests to drink beneath the camellias

sitting in the coolness of evening
thinking of sipping some wine
i invite you to be guests of the riverside

do not fear there are no autumn drinkers
i invite you to accompany me in tipsiness
while the lotus vanishes the camellia blooms

murphy responding as always to nature






mourning three friends (2 of 2)

all my friends gone, those lofty birds
those comrades of mine in court
only one deer left here, alone
alone to roam through the woods

travelling forever back and forth
song mountain, lo river

murphy set in his ways






moved by old poems

deep into the night, a song comes to an end
i sigh a prolonged sigh, old words awash with tears
a white beard sits before a lantern

the scrolls my hands hold, twenty years old
nine out of ten of those poets we were
the ones i sang these songs with
already gone

murphy a relic in his later time






out for a stroll

in front of the liang prince’s old mansion
a steady snow that continues on and on
two old men consumed by sorrow

with the snow piling up this high
there’ll be no one to meet at prince wu’s
tomorrow, in his garden of the hare

murphy accepting the bounty of nature






song mountain, lo river

today i gaze on song mountain and the river lo
turning away from their beauty, i re-enter this world
all its glories and splendor passing swift as a river
all its worry and grief heaped mountain high

adventure with pain teaches the path to joy
after great labor you learn to appreciate leisure
never yet have i heard of a bird set free from its cage
but that it flew high, high away, never to return

murphy tired of maintaining his dignity






getting old, sent to meng de

we two old men share the act of aging
i ask myself what comes with age
eyes blurry, first to sleep at night
lie abed of morning, unkempt hair

sometimes i venture out with a cane
but mostly indoors all day behind closed doors
i hate the mirror and the face it now holds
i can’t read books with small characters

the only friends i relate to are my old friends
i have little affinity for the capers of youth
i live for an occasional idle chatter
when i see you the joyful words will come

murphy becoming more and more irrelevant






after an illness, sitting alone in the new pavilion waiting for a friend

i sit in the new pavilion, no guest yet today
alone with nothing else to do but wait
i hold the tea kettle to warm my hands
foil the cold wind behind the bamboo fence

after a while my headache gets better
my eyes still murky but now i see more light
i pour my cup for a little sip, about one third full
i idly think of titles to poems i must write

but i must go get two chairs out here
i’ll sit in one to await your arrival

murphy an annotation of a memory






drinking left over wine, my evening meal

after a while i pour the left over wine
warm myself beside the small stove
watch the new song being danced
listen to my words being sung

fat from the fresh sweet meat, fish
sizzling, popping in the frying wok
the fine rice glistening with animal fat
taste pooling at the bottom of my spoon

apart from being lazy, hungry for food
nothing else of note concerns me now

murphy finally able to relax enough to enjoy what he has






how long has my sickness been

how long has my sickness been
almost a hundred of days
the maid keeps the medical book
the dog no longer barks at the doctor

the wine jug is mossy with disuse
the banquet mats covered with dust
i still like to look out on nature
but how to see spring from my pillow

murphy a bear in pain when he’s sick






singing to myself at the mirror

with nothing in mind i face the mirror
thinking to myself how natural to grow old
to age and to wither, that’s nothing strange
to have these abundant white hairs

i have never taken even one cinnabar pellet
my eyes blurred by too much reading
my lungs scratchy, injured, too much wine
and it’s late in the day to be asking, but

has the master a formula for curing old age

murphy ever the wily conjuror






sick on new year’s day

lying abed, surprised, the new year has come
thinking of old joys, while flowers have yet to bloom
i’m getting too old, i’ve been sick too much
but still full of yearning, to feel the wind, study the moon

my desire to raise the cup of pleasure, undiminished
i should give it all up, but my hungry heart persists

and now i will try again, this yet one more spring

murphy dehydrated with only water to drink






my little house

my little house reaches out to touch the village lane
dogs and birds go in and out through a rough fence
a ditch is dug to meet the south lane’s water
my window borrows the northern neighbor’s breeze

i remember geng xin’s extra-small garden
and tao qian’s rough, rustic domicile
why ask how elegant one’s home is
elegance resides in the heart

murphy happy with his jumbled pile of belongings






a drunken party at “level springs”

sprawled before the wine jug, singing wild songs
face toward the heavens, eyes out of focus
of all the people in lo yang, i am surely the idlest
i come to “level springs” four times a year

murphy taking advantage of opportunity






enjoying the moon festival with friends

it’s always been said this is the best time
the moon at its finest on this special night
and the best place to view it is here in lo yang
when the deepest snow covers mount sung

the glowing jewel above, its reflection on the waters
a purity of scene on the banks of the lo river
it’s difficult to imagine anything more desired
than we white haired friends sharing this pleasure

confident there will be another rendezvous
next year for sure, given health and good spirits

murphy partying his best with old, old friends






a question for the crane

crows and egrets will fight for food
sparrows always defend their nests
but an egret stands alone by the pond
through endless hours in wind and snow

all day long with one foot raised
standing in the ice, motionless
making never a sound
what can it be thinking

murphy respectful of the wisdom of wild animals







there’s a reason for good and for bad
abundant blessings and penury
one should take that for granted
become deeply aware, but be easy in thought

one thinks of the slow sparkle of gold
which glows around a rich man’s mansion
there’s no one to hear the wind and waves
which toss and capsize an empty boat

fame is a power in public appearance
but only a rare few achieve such luck
money is bought with a withering of person
the less one chases wealth the better for health

it is said of the bitter melon
it is too harsh and is not to eat
but when one has eaten of it enough in life
the earlier the better, one should retire

murphy carrying a balanced load of worries






waking, an impromptu poem

when i first quit office, on the night i came home
i awoke shortly before dawn, i sat up in bed
there was nothing troubling me in my thought
one can never anticipate such peace of being

murphy a young rabbit buck basking in the sun
at the corner of the field






ready to return

i am ready to leave the gates of public office
and eager to enter my rustic gates at home
bamboo and stream wait there to welcome spring
a full jug of the finest wine waits there for my return

murphy timing his activities to coincide with the seasons






talking to the wine

i am neglecting my ceremonial duties
and am slow to bow to guests when they enter
for now, this being the fourth season
i am reminded what it’s like to be old

murphy the old athlete aching in the cold weather






tasting the new wine

i stare down, into the clear liquid
jiggle the wine cup, then see sparkles
you have left me here, i am alone
there’s no sharing this, this savor of wine

murphy not liking to drink alone






sent to meng de

three times a day, the sound of shallow,
clear water springs
i sit here by my stream, but “benevolence returned”
the stream we sit by in your ward, is finer
why have you left me alone, why serve
for three long years

murphy missing his old colleagues






early morning heat

and now this fierce heat brings drought
hot weather clouds thinly speed past
the bamboo fence hot to the touch
the sparrows die for lack of food

the back pond dried up completely
the gulls no longer come to visit
i take off my hat, my head still aches
i open my clothes, sweat still flows

on a day like this, this blasted heat
my two friends sent south in exile

murphy still suffering official perils






passing duke pei’s home

the wind blows willow branches over the fence
i remember the joyous times when we drank together
when i chance to pass north of your estate
“house of assembled worthies”

never do i not bow in appreciation

murphy thanking his teachers all his life






left at lang zhi’s cassis pavilion

pity the spring breeze, it won’t last many more days
the wine i have at home, only a half jug left
i wish we were both together getting drunk here
oh, when will your bamboo carriage return

murphy always writing unexpected notes






urging wine on meng de

a talented man deserves a portrait in the unicorn gallery
a lesser man gets tossed away to a far distant village
one shouldn’t question the source of glory or decay
but while spring remains get drunk a few more times

murphy letting go of youthful dreams






youth and age

lying sick abed i heard from the magistrate of streams
it was an invitation to a party of congratulations
so i got up with the help of secretary liu and drank a cup
youth, laugh if you will, an old man honors
another old man

murphy always ready to roister with elders






after a sickness, going to see meng de

i suddenly recall that last year when i first got sick
i was happy without a wine cup in my hand
and now what happens to me this spring
i head over to meng’s to drink some wine

murphy determined to enjoy every day he has left






illness and old age press on me

the full blossom of glory, the rotten end of all life
the anxious worry of things undone, the release of joy
the waste of dying young, the achievement of old age
all these share this world in their being
it is all just an opera in the world of men

and don’t bother yourself if you return to this world
as part of a worm’s head, or a rat’s liver
the skin of a chicken, or the feathers of a crane
none of these lives are capable of doing harm

the other day the winds arose, i became ill
just as i was to begin a long journey
and now spring has brought its warmth

it is working as a modest cure
all that preparation for a trip is finished
what harm if i now dawdle a bit, and delay

murphy knowing he will heal in time






rising with difficulty i wish to welcome spring, sent to meng de

i ask for my cane as maids support my useless,
sick body
i struggle to rise in order to be able
to welcome the spring
one day i again will be able to hobble over
to where you live
your lovely girls of the upper chambers
can then laugh at me

murphy too sick to do anything






sailing in the small boat (1 of 2)

the boat eases along slipping through the calm waters
one bamboo oar splitting the stern to guide us
double-wide green mats cover the boat’s prow
wisteria and bamboo line the banks
like when i went to ho zhou

murphy content in old age to steer a slower course






sailing in the small boat (2 of 2)

one lake of water, one small boat
the sound of waves against the bow
i know the wind has freshened
a soughing sound back at the stern

i hear a dripping rain above me
lying drunk within the boat, waking up
a thought suddenly makes me wonder
am i really only to be a guest in jiang nan

murphy drunk and adrift in his musings






remembering jiang nan (3 of 3)

fresh, the memory of jiang nan
then i wonder if i can remember wu palace

a glass of wine called “bamboo leaves”
wu beauties dancing in pairs
like twin drunken camillia blooms
will i ever see them again

murphy reduced to memories for his bemusement






remembering jiang nan (1 of 3)

jiang nan was wonderful
i savored its scenery, sunsets
river flowers redder than fire

and when spring came
river water the color of indigo
how can i forget jiang nan

murphy remembering bluebonnet fields in texas






remembering jiang nan (2 of 3)

what do i remember most, the memories of hang zhou
seeking cassia seeds in bright moonlight
by the mountain temple
viewing the tide sitting on pillows
in the pavilion of officials
when will i ever be invited to a frolic there again

murphy dancing slow dances at his senior prom






a song of idleness

the lowly poor bustle about in search
of food and clothes
the eminent wealthy spend their time
wasting mind and vigor
in a man’s life on earth if he’s not rich,
he’s usually poor
while his months become years
and leisure is at a premium

luckily i am middling, nestled between riches and poverty
still at court though and not alone in the mountains
i spend my time viewing the fall of snow

seeking out the early spring flowers
savoring the wind and the moon
seven years now, here in lo yang

murphy struck by his luck in life






what to do in early summer

thin screen on the window lets light
of dawn shine through
still abed i straighten my turban, pin up my hair
as i rise to leave the bed i notice the lantern
still a flickering remnant of the night long flame

i open my clothes box and am met
with the scent of incense
the sweet smell bringing back the memory of past years
my friends who left me here in a spring gone by
if i don’t get a little drunk how will i get through this day

a song, a jug of wine, and then, perhaps, do it again
and tomorrow i will sun myself beside the new hall

murphy escaping the tedium of his own company






a spring visit

i climb alone to the perilous heights
from the pavilion i look out on spring
the vista contains 3,000 worlds
my mind empties, no obstruction in sight

i lose all sense of height and distance
turning back i see three official roads
and there, a speck of dust is the capital
time passes, only a few others arrive up here

these visitors stay with me for only half a day
princes and dukes come to such a place
once in a lifetime
now i know it was heaven alone made this,
this scene of emptiness
this place of idleness, for neither the busy nor the rich

murphy seeking solitude and finding it






apprehension (1 of 2)

i remember well the profusion of blossoms
there at the tower along with a few willows
the trees leaning toward the dike like lovers
i was prepared and brought along some wine

hand in hand with the willing young maiden
i made my way up to your carmine gates
but hesitated to intrude on your hospitality
for fear you would find it all too strange

murphy never one to eschew feminine company






apprehension (2 of 2)

i wish to idle away this fine day
here in the lovely “pavilion of officials”
it seems proper to steal a view of the scenery
and have a proper frolic to greet the spring

but i worry that the chattering nightingale
the one there flitting among the flowers
might fly up into the palace above
and inform on me to the resident master

murphy an interloper in the enclave of privilege






encouraging the duke to entertain

before, there were peaceful times, rich harvests
days followed one another, merit was achieved
fame was pursued with a young, healthy body
now, before my eyes, forget-my-sorrow days

hereafter i fear there will be no joyous men
since last year many things have happened
from now on i will have far fewer friends around
you, sir, should hold frolicsome parties often

we could usher in a second glorious spring
and perhaps call it the era of “openly achieved”

murphy ruing the advance of venal men






the sorrow of spring, sent to intendant li

spring’s colors will soon reach their end
while official affairs keep one busy
yet, even though you are all tied up
court audiences morning and evening
what prevents you from one tipsy jaunt

blossoms on fragrant trees, clusters of snow
the hair on this old man’s head, fallen frost
i know you are still young and not yet beyond
take some time to enjoy the fresh, passing breeze

murphy gathering rosebuds while he may







my head aches and my teeth are sore
i’ve been lying here for three full days
my wife busies herself boiling herbs
the maid offers her support

today i can raise my head
look around a bit and talk
the first question that i pose
does my southern neighbor have any wine

murphy back to his usual profligate ways






seeing off collator li

i’ve been to many a party of wine and poetry guests
where the participants idly frolic away their time
though it is rare to see someone as carefree as you
who worries not about his source of livelihood

what will you serve at home for the cold food festival
all i see in your boat of return are the shadows of trees

murphy admiring anyone who eschews privilege






sent to meng de

the other day we were drinking at your home
yesterday there was a party at wang’s estate
today you both stop by my humble hut
so in three days three get-togethers

we sing freely urging wine on one another
come finish a cup for you and one for me
i will make three wishes

a world of peace
bodies healthy and strong
growing old, to see each other often

murphy simplifying the balance of his life






a morning stroll in the forest

hair still uncombed i put on my clothes
without a hat, rising at dawn to enter the forest

heavy night dew, lingering fragrance of faded flowers
morning light, speckling shadows under the leaves
within the pines few traces of other men
the voices of birds deep within the bamboo

i stand idly by a small bridge
close my eyes, sing a new song

murphy always up before the others






drinking wine before the new year,
thinking of meng de

drinking alone is never much fun
but here i sit singing idle thoughts
a glass of new year’s wine at hand
and a few lines of my old friend’s poem

today the willows show fresh yellow
my hair and beard show half white
all around me spring’s fresh aroma
your old heart and mine, still sharp, aware

murphy at one with the change of seasons






sick, but sitting peacefully

wine awaits, but sickly i don’t drink
poems at hand, but lazy i don’t sing
mind fuddled these days, i don’t fish
hand paralyzed, i don’t play my lute

all day indoors, nothing happens, i lie idle
outwardly, my ailing limbs lie quiet
inwardly, a heart of calm non-being
windows and door show an autumn scene

late, bamboo and trees standing clear
day begins its end in evening shadows
i sit at peace by the small pond
my lapel lifts in the evening breeze

murphy allowing his body to heal itself






finding a peaceful spot for a sick old man

treading softly i pass over the water bridge
keeping quiet i enter the forest road
who can know the depths of this quiet realm
aching old body walks slowly, alone

looking closely for what might kindle my interest
there, a unique natural form snatches my eye
that crop of blue-green granite, glossy, smooth
under a stand of dense green shaded trees

i shuck my grass sandals beside my spot
this is a place where old scholar yang
would sit quietly, meditating on the three joys

murphy seeking solitude and rarely finding it






a song for planting peaches

first i ate a ripe peach, then planted its pit
after only a year the seed engendered buds
after two came longer branches and leaves
after three the blush of the blossoms

then five and six, bright with delicate fragrance
now it’s been eight and nine, new growth lessens
last spring there was little growth, this year almost none
all this has happened, now the fruit of intention

i order wine to be brought
drink with me beneath the tree
hold up your cup in joy
infuse a remnant petal

i have feelings for this peach
so i sing a song of celebration

murphy at one with the natural order of things






open the collar

where might i go open my collar the best
perhaps under the bamboo by the pond
the remaining heat of the day like a fire
seeking a coolness the breeze will convey

yellow cassia blossoms, all withered away
red lotus blooms, broken, all fragrance gone
there’s no way to avoid this feeling in autumn
thoughts slow down, become thoughts of aging

murphy realizing he is now superannuated






an edict

yesterday an edict was posted to law
an incriminated one forced into exile
today an edict is promised to come down
a virtuous official to be elevated

i don’t care to know who advanced, who retreated
glory and disgrace pile to a jumble in this world
my heart and the world, both beyond memory’s hold
i hear all the news but it never registers my mind

eating my fill has brought its gladness this year
lo yang’s rice harvest fluffy, white as autumn clouds
so i tip the wine jug and sing my idle songs
forget the world, even forget my own body as well

murphy far, far removed from mundane affairs






a chance composition (1 of 2)

a war horse led out in spring finally returns home
the farm ox come winter gets his well needed rest
why is it that men who chase the chimera of fame
work mind and body right up to the end of their days

one who advances in office rarely ever stops
one who leaves home soon forgets to return
i realized these truths only late in my life
but at 65 i withdrew into homely idleness

this is far better than my not realizing
the red dust awaiting old age and death

murphy making hay in the autumn of his life






a chance composition (2 of 2)

i’ve never much wished for fame, either high or low
i have tired of most material things, either small or large
if you desire either riches or fame, you are self-harassed
but if you abjure their lure, you find yourself at peace

how easy it is to state this profound principle
forget seductive words, find the truth for yourself

murphy hiding his worth under a bushel






rainy night in early autumn

tonight the crickets make their faint cries
time seems to stop for an enduring moment
the latter half of night gone in an excess of rain
water spilling from the eaves under the pines

a brisk breeze now blows autumn across the bed
it is early dawn, the lamp still dimly lit
season changed before the mats are made warm
weather clearing now, who will frolic with this old man

murphy finding joy even in the dreariest situations






a morning’s penchant

bleary eyed, head spinning, ears going deaf
the only thing in order is heart and mouth
these two being fully aware, what do i wish to do
perhaps to chant buddha’s name in all the sutras

murphy realizing his fallback position is writing poetry






restful sleep

i lie snug in my warm bed basking in morning sun
waking fresh from a restful sleep, all vexations eased
today perhaps a single meal and only two cups of tea
that should suffice until the next day comes

murphy relaxed and in the moment






willow branch song

a single willow tree, a plethora of branches
shifting, pliant, gold, seemingly softer than silk
in this western corner of “abundance forever” ward
does anyone else know of it, all day i see no one else

murphy always on the lookout for hidden hidey holes






the lodge at west pavilion

here again, the level bridge over the pond
beneath the bridge is the familiar pavilion
i am awake now during the depth of the night
and decide to take a stroll over the bridge

here again this now white-haired once-intendant
walking the old familiar span beneath my feet
i find the moon still shines as brightly as before
now, after the passing of fifteen long years

murphy remembering the tentative steps
of his callow youth






at the north window with my three friends

today i stand before my north window
and ask why do i find myself here
simple joy at having my three friends with me
and what are these three friends i hold so dear

my lute, which i play for a welcome while
my wine, to drink when my music stops
my poems, to sing after finishing my wine
my three friends to savor one after the other

the first strum of the lute settles my heart
after one song i stretch my four limbs at ease
then if i fear the lute and the poem are at odds
a bit of tipsiness brings them into accord

how can it be that one who is so dull as i
be the only one who honors the union of these three
many ancients shared these feelings of mine

for the love of poetry there was yuan ming
for the love of the lute there was qi ji
for the love of wine there was bo lun

these three men were my especial teachers
they never stored rice and cinched their clothes with rope
but all knew the pleasures of music and song
they were masters of poetry, connoisseurs of wine

these three teachers have long since left us
and no longer able to pursue their lofty ways
three friends who were so given to frolic
there was no day they failed to indulge themselves

in my left hand flourishes a white jade cup
in my right hand a golden plectrum to strum
so excitedly tipsy am i that i fill this clear silk
and rushing brush renders my wildness in words

who can i send to carry these words to cronies of mine
these words of gratitude for my three intimate friends
even though others may not consider me right
how can they conceivably consider me wrong






singing what pleases me

animals most enjoy mountains and valleys
fish are at home in marshes and ponds
insects are found within the deepest of grass
birds are partial to the highest of limbs

they are each different in what pleases them
the same in choosing what best fits their natures
they can’t change themselves one to another
so what use to talk of what’s right or what’s wrong

but what do i most take my pleasure in
in being an official if one were to ask
what pleasure could one find in officialdom
i say it’s a rare pleasure unknown to most men

high rank carries stipend worthwhile
and with it comes much idle time
when one is freed from worry and care
being lazy then comes close to the dao

being dull is at one with being at ease
yesterday morning i submitted a memorial
this evening i serve incense at the temple
then i am free to make my way back home

i remove my turban standing by the north window
take off my dust laden official clothes
a cold stream of water washes my head
then warm water to bathe my four limbs

lying down i luxuriate in pureness of breeze
nothing to war with the peace in my heart
there i sit in the last rays of the sun

i may open a book, i may fill cup with wine
if i could just get more days like today
i could end my days with never a regret

murphy lucky enough to have prospered in life






viewing the moon in the little courtyard

the little courtyard too has the moon high above
and the little garden is filled with bursting flowers
this scene is lovely and has no parallel
in poor families and the hardships they endure

the “chestnut corner” ensemble
takes up their instruments
the one named “valley child” begins to play the lute
“red silk” dances with hand gestures that please
“purple silk” sings, brings contentment to the heart

village songs and country dances make the guests laugh
their obvious joy brings pride to the host’s eyes
please have a little more to drink,, there’s time
and your faces are not yet too reddened with wine

the guests are aware of the host’s cordial feelings
so he fills their cups to the brim another time or two
then the guests adjust their caps preparing to leave

the host signals to “short red sleeves” on the left
and to “green moth eyebrows” on the right
long do they kneel thanking their eminent guests
for their coming to call on the “brushwood gate”

after the guests have left i have a remnant of excitement
so i lie drunk and sing to myself, softly, so softly, alone
look all through the heavens and comb all the earth
you will not find another that knows
such tipsy, poetic, joy

murphy throwing the party to end all parties






wild words for my nieces

those who cannot read or write are thought ill of
but i was fortunate to have practiced the writing brush
those who have not attained official position are ignored
but i was favored by circumstance to earn official rank

men age, and with age comes much sickness and pain
but i am lucky now to be largely ailment free
men get old, become enmeshed with worries and cares
but i have now completed my marital obligations

my heart is at ease with no burdensome feelings
my body is at peace with no debilitating ills
that is why i have been idle, pursuing pleasures
these last ten years with sturdy frame and spirit

but now i am faced with the years of old age
with desire for only a few material things
perhaps a warm fur coat for the winter
a good meal to see me through each coming day

don’t think my home is too small for such as i
for all i truly need is my one room to sleep
why should i need a stable of horses
can a man ever ride two steeds at a time

good health of body is shared with seven out of ten
but heart of satisfaction is shared by one in a hundred
one may consider the ways of others to be quite foolish
but in one’s own life one must strive to become wise

i don’t dare to send these thoughts out to others
these wild words are to be shown to my nieces

murphy keeping his counsel for his inner family






rising late after a heavy snow, sent to my three friends in the capital

clouds cover the heavens, the snow now slackens
the cover so deep legs sink down to the knees
carriage wheels bury in the slush of the roads

the family in the east returns to a grim night
the family to the south has pawned all their goods
they now must borrow to pay for their daily rice

i alone have no worries, lie warm behind bed curtains
so warmly covered it might as well be spring
not wishing to feel the cold i lie lazy, unwilling to move

i sleep until the sun has half run its course
stretching for a while, i see there’s wine in the jug
coal fills the stove, rice fills the bin,
firewood in the kitchen

the servants are warm, the maids well fed, i often rise late
there is a reason for me to enjoy the good life that i have

lacking integrity of the great ministers of old
i no longer serve
i have not the heart to eat ferns and drink only water
i have no stomach for self inflicted pain and distress

you three can look over the southern mountains
to far white clouds
then turn to look toward the great and mighty
western capital
there you can see red dust, heat and noise,
and cool white clouds
it is better to be here at peaceful ease between the two

three years of good fortune thanks to the intendant
of lo yang
i’m given two fine assignments as tutor
to the crown prince
i find myself entirely satisfied to be who i am

not smart, not dumb, not sage-wise,
not eminent, not rich
and not poor and humble; on and on
i live into ripe old age
past sixty now, frolicking, lazy,
enjoying the last seven springs

so, zhang, wei, and huang fu, what say you three
what sort of man do you think i have become

murphy checking in with his compatriots






a little song

men of the world are wont to seek wealth and fame
and eventually they become victims of their own greed
growth and decay are not independent, they mesh
where there is gain, there is no escaping a loss

let me pose the question of what do young men do
they seek fortune through a lengthy time
of arduous study
wear hair pins as they rush to and fro in the dusty world
they will even read their books by light
reflecting off snow

their cloth bedding will be thin
and won’t cover their body
they will exist on crude vegetables for their daily food
then they will at thirty begin their ascent
of the official path
at fifty they will finally be enrobed
in the dress of the court

after your servants are warm
you may wear warm garments
after your horses are fat you may begin to eat millet
but you won’t frolic in pleasures,
you’re still bound to chase fame

after you go deaf and your eyes have become dim
there will be music played at your festive table
and when your teeth begin to blacken and fall out
then your plate is piled high with the finest delicacies

when fame is achieved your greed takes its leave
so a surfeit of things will not begin to satisfy
youth and glory avoid one another like hot and cold
the blue clouds of fame are far removed from this earth

the sun quickly runs its course through the heavens
it’s been that way since affairs of the world began
my advice to all, stop a while, listen to this song

murphy keeping his head down to avoid trouble






i sing my feelings

i know the world is mere illusion, i seek nothing within it
the world knows i will not endure
so it leaves me blameless
we both forget each other, and i then go my own way
what do i attempt to be, an idle official in an idle land

where is there an idle land, only in the eastern capital
there, indeed, is a place of little profit,
little chance of fame
there an idle official finds himself, and that is me
sleeping in priestly lodgings til the sun’s on high

body at ease with no impinging strife or stress
spirit at peace with no pressing worry or fear
i have served in office for a long thirty years
and have never been as carefree as i am now

the wild goose has escaped the arrows and the net
the regal crane still possesses money and rank
but there is one thing alone i have not forgotten
from time to time i experience an inward shame

murphy taking advantage of his luck in life






leaving office, returning to my hut

after leaving office and returning to my hut
quietude, tranquil time, no guests coming to visit
at times a priest will inquire about my health
i have more than ten servants, three or four horses

when i feel lazy i may lie in bed for ten days
when excitement comes i go out for days on end
where do i find it most suitable to frolic
in the song mountains when suffused with deep green

these warm clear days are conducive to freedom
body at ease, that is eminence, who needs glory and rank
satisfied in one’s heart one can ever feel poor
why should anyone fill a room with mere gold

i see those in power suffer, their bodies harassed
they are certainly treading on the thinnest of ice
mornings at ceremony, so starved for food
they forget its flavor
evenings plagued by fear and loss–
wealth, eminence, a paltry reality

murphy retired at last and not looking back






a small boat on the pond

a small bed in a small boat on the pond
alone i pour new wine as i take my ease
a taste, the aroma like fresh new spring day
sparkling like the glow on the autumn waves

it washes away the dullness in my heart
rinses clear the dust in my intestines
the boat goes slowly past crooked river banks
i drink a goblet for each and every bend

i get drunk and lose count of the songs i sing
i pass “no-account” village in my tipsy state
wind around the nearby pools and islands
the bamboo by the water green and deep

body at leisure and a calm reflective heart
the day stretching long and idle before me
if i don’t forget the world and find leisure
my heart would find itself perturbed

and if the world doesn’t forget me
i withdraw, but find it difficult to hide
but today neither course pertains
the world and i have forgotten each other

murphy adrift on the mirror of no mind






an aside to my students, after drinking

i am your teacher and you are my students
there is much to learn at the confucian gate
so sit and take heed of my heartfelt words
always bring wine and food for your teacher

work and anxiety is the lot of the student
piety and reverence here above all else
and if you wish me less worry and grief
if you wish me more joy and delight

the best thing to do is to bring warm wine
and always make sure it is plentiful and fine
if it is fine enough i can entertain my guests
and if the wine jug is always full i escape shame

i have one further thing to add to this
men who get old mostly worry about poverty
men who get sick most worry about death
i may be old and sick but for that i worry not

i worry about becoming only half-drunk
with an empty jug so my guests will leave me

murphy keeping the guests steins filled with guinness






year’s end

the end of the year approaches badly
ten days now there has been dreary weather
wind bringing frost that tears at your face
ice and snow playing havoc with carriage wheels

at such a time i find myself isolated, alone
but i am neither bitter nor harassed with worries
mornings i go fetch rice from the large bin
evenings i bring in firewood for the kitchen

my winter cap covers my ears on both sides
warm heavy clothes wrap me from head to toe
and i can add to these comforts a cup or two of wine
reminding me of the coming warmth of spring

the people of lo yang, both the high and the low
face scarcity– poverty and starvation
lie behind most doors
where is there a stove with a warming fire
where are there rice bins not filled only with dust

there is only one in a hundred well fed and warm like me
how can i not feel shame, the feeling i sing of now

murphy fortunate in a life replete with good luck






leaving public office

leaving public office i brush the world’s dust
from my clothes
i release the hundred subordinates
who have reported to me
i am left with only a pair of cranes to see me home
i am returning to my old place in sandal route ward

i dismount and enter through the rustic doors
the horse neighs as it is led back to the stable
the two cranes dance back to their favorite old pond
how happy those birds, how happy my dogs

how fondly i recollect the village neighbors
i left years ago and old age has come on to me
but my livelihood has improved over this time
i now have silks to defend against winter’s cold

my bins are filled with grain to prevent yearly starvation
i have more food than even dong fang shuo
and i find myself happier than rong qi zhi
with a life like this one i have now, i fear nothing beyond

murphy taking a deep breath and relaxing at last






looking in the mirror, delighting in old age

this morning i look into the bright mirror
my hair has become tangled white threads
i should expect such decay in my sixty-fourth year
though my relatives feel sorry that i have grown old

they look at each other and sigh, i laugh
they wonder aloud why should this be
and when i am finished laughing i order wine
then cover the mirror and twist my white hairs

i turn to my kin and speak to them quietly
listen to my words, life isn’t worth yearning after
why should age be worth getting sad about
old age means you have lived a long life

if you don’t get old you will have died young
and if you don’t die young you are sure to decay
decaying late is certainly better than dying early
the ancients said our time on earth is a floating life

to get to seventy is rare for any man to achieve
i have only six more years to go to make that age
and if i do why should i be like old rong qi zhi
you should be happy, don’t sigh, fetch me some wine

murphy explaining the facts of life to his grandchildren






responding to a priest who makes a sick call

i’m in a bed in a square temple room open to the sun
the priest manjusri pointedly inquires about my sickness
why does he bother about me stuck
in this world of desire
only a god in the fourth heaven escapes life’s storms

murphy unbearable to be around when he is sick






new words for the song chang zhou

the luxuriant park a fine clothed beauty of nature
peach and plum trees in an area of splendor
a fine spring season at “female grave” lake

“heart slave” has now passed beyond this world
and “barbarian looks” is now growing old
oh, who will be their lovely successors

murphy never losing his eye for the young women






feelings when passing by pei du’s old home after a snow

before when the prince of liang had perished
the old poet mei zheng passed by his gate
there are those with tears who still will cry
but the snow falls uncaring on all, mute, unaware

the tower pavilion still stands the same
but where are his guests now widely scattered
here there is only a wild goose alone, forlorn
returning as is his wont to his favorite old pond

murphy well read and knowing all the old stories






sickly feelings at year’s end, sent to meng de

the last ten years have seen vast change
old friends scattered to the four seas
only our old, aged, sick bodies remain
both of us unlucky, but acceding to our fates

our steps have been similarly blocked
and when i think on it for no good reason
with old age my sight lessens into blurs
it’s difficult to sleep so i hate the long nights

my body hates the pain and cold of winter
it waits, impatient, for the welcome warmth of spring
i trust it will come early this year for us both
please meet me at the old pond near “new joy” hall

murphy habituated to seeking out
the few old friends who remain






an explanation

in a past life fang was said to be a zen priest
in a former life wang must have been an artist
and now i, myself, look on fate in fixed meditation
with debts incurred in many lives in poem and song

how else explain my many wild chants
the more coming after illness than before

murphy blending in to history






drinking wine on a warm day,
sent to meng de

the screen is lowered, the cushions soft
i am lying at ease on an old rattan bed
then i am carried under the eaves
and there i face the brightness of sun

i extend one leg toward the earth beneath
it feels foreign to me, all i wish is to pour a cup
to fill my intestines and settle my head
the wind in my mind cured by looking at poems

my teeth are rotten but still proud i sit
laughter still comes when i drink in little sips
i can slowly sing of our old frolics
you and i should never forget the other

murphy partying on until the bitter end






stopping moxibustion

have you not heard the buddhists describe a sick body
as change-destruction flaring in a flash of time
if vimalskirti only knew he wouldn’t laugh at me now
i’ve stopped using moxibustion, i burn the floating cloud

murphy accepting the inevitable faltering
of frail humanity






seeing off a guest leaving song mountain

you are going to leave song mountain
and approach the waters
we part here at this time
and you will not return to see me again
now who does this stream and rock,
the smoke and mist, belong to
when you get south of song mountain
sing these lines full loud
teach them to all the thirty six peaks,
make them all aware

murphy carving his words into other minds






the first sickly winds

i’m a decayed old man now turned sixty eight
making the best of the attack of the hundred ills
it’s hard for a withered pillow to escape its fate
the wood eating worm will find its meal

it’s easy for the wind to enter a gaping hole
my wrist so skinny it resembles a willow frond
my head reels like mugwort tossing in the breeze
the only thing not changing, the emptiness in my chest

murphy losing it all bit by bit






seeing off governor li of su zhou

there stands the palace of beauty in the depths of spring
there rises the black magpie bridge
to the heights of majesty
there wafts the cool autumn breeze
in night of the full moon
these wonders all too unaware of changes
in the world of man
yet they will serve you as once they served
the prince of wu

mrphy aware of but protected from
the trappings of power






poem of harmony

antic play of two tipsy friends meng and bai
what day, what night passes without our revels
time and again beside the lamp, day comes, brightens
and still we sit before the wine jug and drink

finally we topple into our beds to find our rest
we grow old together but pay this no never mind
our grandchildren too will succumb to age
one should delight in growing pile of one’s years

like bai dao once, striving to live,
welcomed his autumnal hair
i who have no sons, no grandsons,
live now, white-haired like him

murphy living the life he’s given






prefect li calls on recluse xu,
man of the mountains

the other prefects slight all poets
village people all have shallow thoughts
only courtier li honors the old fisherman
he truly sympathizes with recluse xu

murphy recognizing the wisdom of quietude






returning to the eastern capital at night

the wine cask is shaped like a turtle
it hangs from the limber bamboo pole
the horse’s bit is pulled along gently
two twin tufted wu servants lead the way

i enter the eastern capital at night
who there will recognize me now
i am wearing short shoes, a low cap
and plain white banana cloth dress

murphy dressing in his same simple style year after year






white hairs

my first white hairs appeared thirty years ago
now i am domed with the purest of snow
i scribble poems all day like a crazy old man
decayed and sickly, i look like a skinny immortal

at nights i burn the finest of incense
while holding to the eight admonitions
on proper days i read the petaled pearl sutra
the remnants of spring i will spend drunk or sleeping

murphy habitually carefree in his worship of nature






the fourth year’s spring spent in idleness

willow fronds are just turning yellow, tender
grasses budding anew, once again i enter spring
the era called “starting achievement” in its fourth year
but of late i am given over only to indolence

i mostly stay inside my home, youth detests old age
so who else is there left to be my intimates
there’s ji the crown prince’s tutor who stops by
old retired cui qing may move into the neighborhood

pushed and shifted by things and events
those who come see me are grizzled white-hairs

murphy with fewer and fewer contemporaries





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