murphy’s han yu von zach VII

vii-1 after a snowfall, sent to the district judge of lan tian, cui si li, 26th of his clan
vii-2 honored by the buddhist priest cheng guan
vii-3 zheng you jing, governor of shan nan and former minister of state, and the ministerial secretary fan cong shi, have exchanged poems with each other. since the rhyme words at the end of these poems seem to relate to me, fan sent these poems on to me for my perusal. in return i have written a poem of 14 rhymes which i offer here:
vii-4 minister wu yuan heng wrote a poem at the time of his governorship of si chuan concerning a peacock the former governor wei gao had left behind. using the same rhymes i wrote the following poem.
vii-5 embracing the end of spring (1 of 3)
vii-6 embracing the end of spring (2 of 3)
vii-7 embracing the end of spring (3 of 3)
vii-8 in the morning i hurry to the district west of the main street to burn incense in the chambers dedicated to masters lu ding and li feng ji
vii-9 evening, i send a poem to professor of guo zi jian zhang ji (18th of his clan) and assistant teacher zhou guang
vii-10 i write this verse on the wall of the house of my friend zhang ji
vii-11 in response to the poem, “the lotus blooms on meandering lake,” sent to me by the censor liu yun fu, i reverently offer this poem to the minister qian hui and assistant teacher zhang ji.
vii-12 in respectful response to the poem of divisional chief qian hui regarding the plants in his small pond
vii-13 the dream
vii-14 returning from the audience at the nan nei gong palace, poem submitted to a colleague.
vii-15 returning from the audience
vii-16 unusual thoughts (1 of 4)
vii-17 unusual thoughts (2 of 4)
vii-18 unusual thoughts (3 of 4)
vii-19 unusual thoughts (4 of 4)
vii-20 i hear different stories about dong fang so
vii-21 i rebuke the demon of malaria
vii-22 poem i showed to my children
vii-23 the catalpa trees in the courtyard
vii-24 i enjoy the moonlight awaiting the arrival of ministerial secretary zhang ji (18th of his clan) and an official of the secret archives wang jian (6th of his clan)
vii-25 in response to a poem written by li feng ji concerning a great sacrifice to heaven and earth he officiated at (on behalf of the emperor) wherein he was seized by contemplation of nature, (handed over to some old friends)
vii-26 answering the poem of pei du (duke of jin guo) concerning the artificial mountain in his garden (11 rhymes)
vii-27 together with zhang ji (18th of his clan) i imitate the poem of yuan ji (the commander of the emperor’s park-troops) entitled: a day and another night have passed
vii-28 i escort zhu go jiao as he leaves for sui zhou to study with the governor li fan
vii-29 my first trip on the southern rivers (1 of 3)
vii-30 my first trip on the southern rivers (2 of 3)
vii-31 my first trip on the southern rivers (3 of 3)

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii-1

after a snowfall, sent to the district judge of lan tian, cui si li, 26th of his clan

the mountain passes to lan tian are blocked during the tenth month
when i rise to look south i view the many mountains there with sorrow
they rise high into the heavens, their snow caps reflecting the sun
you are one whose duty is to spend your life living up within them

and from your lowly position you must find a way to feed many mouths
do you have enough wine and good food to brighten your own countenance
the dignitaries in the capital have all had the choicest tidbits of course
and, self-satisfied, ride about on magnificent steeds along their way

as you know the assessment of a candidate follows a strict scale
but the elegant cassia can be hidden by brambles and reeds
how often i thought of recommending you to the emperor
but he was so unapproachable i could not bother his dignity

since i returned from exile i stay behind closed doors and cry
who is it can bring the confusion in my mind to order again
the poet meng jiao died from hoeing weeds and undergrowth
though his poems were bright gems decorating the finest sash

my friend zhang ji has lost his eyesight, become decrepit, bedridden
his great talent lies alone, unused, a relaxed bow hanging on a wall

in the heavens and on earth grace should be given to all creatures
not only to those men who show their love in barren selfishness
in the mornings i sigh, evenings i groan, i can’t shake these thoughts
why is my heart still in my breast and not become unfeeling stone

murphy hating all politicians equally

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii-2

honored by the buddhist priest cheng guan

when buddhism from the west regions first came to the chinese empire
it plunged everything into turmoil, people everywhere were changed
mighty pagodas were built high enough to seemingly touch the milky way
who could presume to prevent the people from a pride in their splendor

later in the land of the huai and san rivers appeared the great sangha da shi
through his efforts the influence of buddha became even more remarkable
all the merchants of yue in the east to central asia in the west discharged their sins
they loaded their ships with jewels and brought riches to him in countless amounts

the clear huai river runs without waves, as smooth as the finest mat
on its banks pagodas rose to the skies, red balustrades tinting the heavens
one is consumed with the fire of their color and the surrounding waters
one pagoda rises powerfully up, up, over three hundred feet in height

its shadow falling on the water frightens the dragons who keep their distance
even on cloudless days it seems to soar high enough to touch the heavens
i took the liberty to ask who it was who actually built this proud edifice
i found it was the priest cheng guan, whose fame justly spreads far and wide

earlier in my life when i followed the army to da liang as secretary
visitors in my house were many excellent men who all would say
cheng guan, though a buddhist priest, uses all his skills for the community
his official efforts were the talk of these men who felt he had no equal

later on i received a letter for xu zhou summoning me to come there
with governor zhang xian feng i met so many guests i can’t remember them all
and they all said that cheng guan was a poet of renown
and all those who sat at the round table vied to hum his new verses

i have long sighed because i have not been able to meet this remarkable man
i wished to gain for him the confucian teachings, and so to make him an officer
then, while i was in lo yang near the end of august, alone in a bored solitude
i suddenly heard a knocking at my gate, like the pecking of a woodpecker

it was the buddhist priest who had sought me out, and i invited him in
he had a long narrow forehead with excellent high cheekbones
unfortunately he was old and thus no candidate for conversion
i was struck dumb at his appearance and could only shed tears

the governor of lin huai had just arrived to assume his position
and had instructed this honored underling to inquire after my health
he thus honors strange people who are otherwise difficult to meet
and had asked the honored priest to convey his wishes for my welfare

murphy recognized as a guru by a few cognoscenti

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii-3

zheng you jing, governor of shan nan and former minister of state, and the ministerial secretary fan cong shi, have exchanged poems with each other. since the rhyme words at the end of these poems seem to relate to me, fan sent these poems on to me for my perusal. in return i have written a poem of 14 rhymes which i offer here:

liang zhou is the center of the defense in the southwest
the mountains there, high walls; the waters deep and tortuous
the natives are unusual in their nature, in accordance with the land
they have always been problematic for officials to control

yet you, zheng you jing, are a proven, seasoned public servant
and your strength as a leader and administrator is formidable
the emperor sent you to assume this post of leadership
and to settle the whirling dust by establishing your banner

you, with your awe-inspiring and gracious benevolence
will fulfill heaven and earth with your singular appearance
and though your territory reaches between hua yang and hei shui
it is expected that by example and reformatory activities you will succeed

you are of a versatile and noble perfection, as is noted by all
your literary works shine as a bright light in officialdom
you have friends who exemplify the sublime teachings of the ancients
among them men of the imperial insignia and thus high dignitaries

the renowned master fan resides in your official guest quarters
he is a respected commentator on confucius, lao zi, and buddha
when gold responds to the chime of jade, a harmony occurs
and these exchanged poems have a finer fragrance than orchids

master fan has graciously sent them on to me in an important letter
which i have received while kneeling in full seriousness and reverence
with these few words i attempt to answer the richness of its contents
within the earnest effort of this verse i search diligently for proper meaning

and suddenly it seems as if i have just removed a plug of ear wax
or when the thunder and turmoil of a terrible storm frightens me
i wonder if this poem in return is of a proper classical bent in its polity
it seems to me nothing more than simple words in a similar style

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii-4

minister wu yuan heng wrote a poem at the time of his governorship of si chuan concerning a peacock the former governor wei gao had left behind. using the same rhymes i wrote the following poem.

how wonderful you are master peacock, friend of the phoenix
pray tell me what year did you come to remain here in this place
in your misfortune you seem to have lost your old pride
you being left behind here, with eternal longing for your old home

yet the green tuft of your crown is still standing erect
and your plumage has lost none of its iridescent sheen
may you now receive friendly treatment in full measure
as you serve until death guarding the steps of this yamen

murphy anthropomorphizing to a fare thee well

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii-5

embracing the end of spring (1 of 3)

during the last part of the last month of spring
i chanced to sit under the tree covered with vines
the vines provided a deep, protective shade
there were still flowers without end

the big new leaves,s dark green, rustle in the wind
the late fruit blossoms wither and fall to the ground
the expansive blue of heaven infinite in height
two butterflies flutter in the fresh spring air

late spring can offer no better than today
and my heart is naturally free from worries

murphy responding favorably to a world of warmth

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii-6

embracing the end of spring (2 of 3)

everywhere one now sees yellow mustard flowers
the peach and plum blossoms have had their time
a wild wind shakes the limbs of the rotten elm
its leaves fall and are whirled through the streets

the late spring is so variable turning into summer
how can one’s face not change and lose the freshness of youth
who can help me find a flying chariot to leave this life behind
i wish only to go to the islands of the immortals beyond the seas

murphy looking forlornly toward the bleakness of later life

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii-7

embracing the end of spring (3 of 3)

morning, i walk in the woods
i see hundreds of flowers
white intermixed with red

the branches of the willows
weak and thin, hanging down
a hundred feet from the tops

people who walk here with me
among the highest of dignitaries
golden seals hanging from violet sashes

handsome young men singing for us
their melancholy borne by harps and flutes
lovely young women dancing on mats
their sparkling eyes sharpened swords and lances

my heart is reminded of old friends
none, unfortunately, present here
the dead long gone their infinite distance
the living beyond rivers and mountains

in one’s youth there is much to look forward to
once one has grown old there is nothing more

murphy going through the motions

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii-8

in the morning i hurry to the district west of the main street to burn incense in the chambers dedicated to masters lu ding and li feng ji

the districts east and west of the main road differ greatly
in the west live important male relatives of the emperor
i respectfully have received the imperial command
and dutifully go to perform this official sacrifice

a bright moon shines on the imperial canal this morning
here in chang an the autumnal cicadas achirp in the trees
the old temple where i sacrifice is full of kindness for me
the site of the cloistered monastery is quite beautiful

at this isolated place i wait for a few friends
so i can share the ride back to my home with them

murphy always glad to be of service

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii-9

evening, i send a poem to professor of guo zi jian zhang ji (18th of his clan) and assistant teacher zhou guang

the sun shines only weakly but the view is clear into the distance
i have just returned from a walk to lie down on the veranda
fine white clouds, tufts of cotton; the moon, a thin sharp crescent
i am suddenly taken with the desire for a life of ease in the country

i find the idea of continuing life as an official to be abhorrent
and wish to spend my life on the land, preferably near you two
but this year is already near its end, for this year it is too late

murphy taking early retirement without hesitation

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii-10

i write this verse on the wall of the house of my friend zhang ji

your home is located on the edge of a gutter
dirty water brings a cover of green duckweed
frogs croak from the wetness, the walk is not swept
cicadas chirp away, your gate is always locked

you rank below most officials, but you write exquisitely
i came here especially to ask about a rare character
that only you could understand and explain

murphy ever the avid user of the o e d

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii-11

in response to the poem, “the lotus blooms on meandering lake,” sent to me by the censor liu yun fu, i reverently offer this poem to the minister qian hui and assistant teacher zhang ji.

the thousand acres of the meandering lake are clear as the waters of autumn
a red cloud of lotus blooms spread evenly over its surface in a bright reflection
from the da ming gong palace comes the censor’s periodic test of me
you came riding a horse to visit on this small lake but did not stay for long

and afterwards you sent me a poem of ninety-six beads of wisdom
their piercing beauty can only have come from under the chin of a sleeping dragon
official duties are light for the moment and i have the leisure to treasure this gift
i drive out to my smaller lake to sit above its floating clouds of lotus brocade

i tap my feet on the edge of the boat singing the soo zhou song of xia tong
the top of the tai bo mountain towers high, high above, thousands of feet
its snow-capped crags cast shadows midst the red flowers on the lake
the lan tian xian mountain appears above as i glide along, then disappears

these waters are only a small stream compared to meandering lake, yet equally smooth
often i need your memory, lu yun fu, unconsciously i turn to ask you a question
the gates of the palace are open to you now, you, an important servant of heaven
but is it not better for genius to roam free, spending days, here, together with friends

murphy retired, teasing a colleague still slaving away

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii-12

in respectful response to the poem of divisional chief qian hui regarding the plants in his small pond

the lotus float gently on your pond
earlier they graced the shores of the yang zi
close by, wild rice raises its long leaves
you it was who transplanted these fragrant roots

both growths bright green from the morning dew
a soft wind weaves intricacies in their fresh growth
you wish no more than the attention of your lord
but no one will deny the beauty of your small pond

murphy carefully trimming the roots of his bonsai

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 13

the dream

during the night i dreamed an official of the spirits spoke to me
his speech was graceful and the details dovetailed perfectly
principles and their lines of inference flowed from his mouth
it seemed to be an entire day, but was surely but a moment

as i listened to his words i wanted to hear more and more
but then suddenly he left me and walked away, up the mountain
i was with two friends and we began to follow him closely
he, the one who went ahead, strode firmly and undaunted

as he led us along narrow and dangerous paths
my legs gained strength and i knew i would not stumble
i leaned over the edge to look down into the dark canyons
i struck my walking stick on a jade tablet and it rang marvelously

another official of the spirits saw me there, and he laughed
facing me, he was a strong man, but no longer young
a gentle slope of stones invited us to sit and rest
i rested my chin on my hands with my elbows on the ground

mighty palaces loomed before me, turrets high in the air
as a warm, heavenly wind caressed my upturned face
the strong, no longer young, man recited a seven word verse
six characters were ordinary language but the seventh was difficult

using my fingers i took a proffered pinch of gemstone powder
and while i wanted to taste it, i asked about the seventh word
a poisonous glance darted from his eyes, he was not pleased
that convinced me, my immortal did not belong to the wise

he was a glossed over error, stupid, who wished only to be worshiped
if i could have turned to the people with me, i would return to the world
but i could only follow the demon spirit and live on the spirit mountain
although he could not hear nor grasp my hatred of his evil

murphy letting his irrational side take control

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 14

returning from the audience at the nan nei gong palace, poem submitted to a colleague.

thin clouds obscure the autumn sun, a light rain has settled the dust
i return, shivering with the others, from the congratulation ceremony
riders and carriages hurry along the 12 streets lined by weeping sophora trees
i am only a limited books scholar with nothing outstanding to offer the state

three times demoted in office, i have yet to rise to ministerial status
and i am not the only one who aspires to the splendor of that uniform
gems encrusting the sash, the cap from the horn of the rhinoceros
my wife’s family were raised to the peerage for generations

their names recorded within the high gates of the imperial palace
my education is lower than that of the others, my life not predestined
if you ask me about matters of the court, i know next to nothing
even in the literature, i have researched only the basic books

the prince’s grace given me is as immense as the towering tai mountain
and i have managed only the smallest of ways to reciprocate his kindness
my duties remain small in scale and i do nothing to further my knowledge
the imperial court is filed with wise men, peacocks and phoenixes

why have i been chosen from the lowly ranks of ordinary waterfowl
men plant rows of pines and cypress, but not mugwort nor goosefoot
likeable young men make friends and show themselves in the best light
how long will it take for me, standing alone, to make my way forward

yet, animals who neglect the protection of self in their greed for food
will escape only the addition of salt and spices to enrich their taste
fate will reach all useless officials who lust after the riches of privilege

judicial officials have been plotting for years, honing their sharp weapons
they exploit my sins and omissions so they can climb ever higher
to preserve my life i should return to my old home in guan dong
i think in this way to live the rest of my life without all this worry

murphy eschewing the allure of power and position

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 15 

returning from the audience

high towers soar above my official hat, that of a dignitary
the gems on my sash of office in constant motion
the badges of rank on my uniform tastefully resplendent
albeit not strictly in compliance with my competence

i follow the shadow of my official hat
listen to the clicking sounds of girdled gemstones
my face pinched, full of shame
cold sweat runs down my spine

i have only the slightest merit, that of a dog or a chicken
how can i expect to move forward in an official career
yet i find it impossible to summon the courage to withdraw
my lacks eat at me, my habits chaotic, i grow fat
the talents i have are those of one deaf or blind

a mighty wind is blowing across the sky
the air of autumn clear enough to see to far horizon
yet now until the evening i want only to fall asleep
i cannot even muster the strength to sing a sad song

murphy listening to his father caution against setting his aims too high

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 16

unusual thoughts (1 of 4)

do not chase away the flies of morning
the evening mosquitos should be ignored
because these two creatures infest the world
how can man conquer them by fighting

how little time they have on this earth
better to let them seek food and stab us
then ninth month’s cold sweeps them away
and their paltry existence becomes nothing

murphy preferring to concentrate on the big picture

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 17

unusual thoughts (2 of 4)

the magpie cries from the trees
the raven caws in raucous reply
they argue in the front courtyard
and invite a deadly crossbow dart

but the brown wild goose tolerates hunger
stands quietly on the shore with folded wings
later, on its way through the blue sea of clouds
it will find no food until the end of the year

murphy reading up on ecological niches

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 18

unusual thoughts (3 of 4)

if one carves a rafter from a supporting pillar
then makes the smaller rafter into a column
then replaces the column with a thick bundle of grass
he will realize the importance of large and small endeavors
even without wind and rain such a house will collapse

one may ride a glorious stallion without even a bridle
yet needs a whip to move a lame ass forwards

a preferred goal may seem infinitely far away
such as reaching kun lun mountain by year’s end
a man tends to stop and rest by the wheels of his carriage
losing all hope of joining the immortals in the heights

murphy grasping at straws to explain the obvious

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 19

unusual thoughts (4 of 4)

the sparrow chirps in the morning seeking his food
the dove coos in the evening seeking its mate
the crane knows to be silent in whiteness
and not to cry out for vain attention

the dumb females of the cicada do not cry at all
frogs, on the other hand, croak only to irritate people

murphy observing nature and getting it all wrong

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 20

i hear different stories about dong fang so

the palace of the queen of the west is colossal
ten thousand immortals dwell there within
when she yawns she causes the winds to blow
by washing her hands she makes the rain to fall

at one time dong fang so was a young lad in her family
spoiled, no one told him no, and he was thus arrogant
he secretly penetrated into the mystery of thunder and lightning
and made a mighty noise by rolling the thunder car out
when the queen of the west heard this noise she laughed
and the entire garden she was in laughed along with her
but what one did not know that millions were buried alive
deep under the sand and the mud caused by flooding

as a result of the vibration rushing along the five great mountains
the eight pillars of the earth swayed uneasily, to and then from
then the queen said, “my son, you really made yourself unpopular
why do you find ways to play around which make bad things happen
dong fang so became angered at hearing these words
he made of his naked body a dragon to soar across the sky
he was delighted as he boldly looked closely at the big dipper
the band of immortals chided the queen for allowing this impudence

we just saw how he managed to spy on the great bear constellation
all of his nonsense simply cannot be tolerated, they chorused
if you, the queen, do not make his crime manifest and punish him
the people will rise up in protest and calamity will follow
the queen was forced to acknowledge this disapproval and loudly sighed
bowing her head she approved bold words and banished dong fang so
though she gave him a bridle with violet gems when saying goodbye
but dong fang so spurned the gracious gift and became even more wanton

he made continuous fun of the earthly emperor han wu di
and openly defied him in the light of day in the royal palace
but then he left suddenly one morning without fanfare
and rose into the dark firmament to disappear forever

murphy despairing of the selfishness of his six-year-old granddaughter

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 21

i rebuke the demon of malaria

the spirit of the water king zhuan xu vanished without a trace
why are you, his irreverent son, become the terrible malaria demon
when autumn comes you bring fever and all the elderly curse you
you look for sustenance in the voidance of vomit, in its filth and stench

doctors have patients smell or swallow hundreds of toxic medicines
some are healed by moxibustion, cupped with a cauterizing heat
this action as cruel as the encirclement of game by fire in a hunt
some exorcists use violent language, tongues too quick to see

incantations by mouth, writing quirky talismans in red and black ink
oh, i am sorry about your ancestors, how powerful they have been
one ancestor was huang di, your father was zhuan xu
you are the last descendant of an earlier powerful family

and because you could not improve your life, you became low and evil
your dishonor is not characteristic of your honorable ancestors
are you not ashamed that you know not the way back to the great stream
the great current has clear waters and you might cleanse yourself therein

the transparent waves will become your habiliment
the white stones beneath become the pillars of your home
there you will drink the splendor of moonlight
and have the lotus flower in hand to gently wave

offerings will be made for you, the nine songs sung
fragrant libations will be given, you will eat tasty fruit
this well meant verse i dedicate to you, and say
leave us here, do not disobey my words

murphy the old shaman conjuring trickery

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 22

poem i showed to my children

when i first came to chang an i had only a bunch of books with me
and now thirty years later, after arduous, diligent work, i live in this house
does this house have any advantages? for only me it is much too large

the central hall is tall, spacious, and newly rebuilt
meat and vegetables sacrificed in all four seasons
the front veranda is where i entertain my guests
and the rites of coming-of-age and marriage are held

the courtyard is almost empty, only eight or nine tall trees there
but in spring these trees, entwined by vines, are rich in blooms
and in the summer they provide a delightful shadiness

from the eastern hall one can look out upon the eastern mountains
billowing clouds, driven by the almost constant wind, sweep over them

cypress and fruit trees connect the house to the southern pavilion
and beyond this melons and root vegetables are planted

looking out on the west side there are not many buildings
the rather empty space taken up by a stand of sophora and elm
forest birds sing there, mornings and evenings, a secluded copse

the woman of the house prevails in the northern hall
providing food and clothing there for the entire household

by the imperial grace this striver from gao ping was ennobled
his sons and daughters also now wear the imperial uniform

if you open the gate and wonder who comes to visit
it is almost always someone important, a dignitary
if you wish to know whether high or low in grade
it is easy to recognize the jeweled goldfish of the third rank

if you wish to know what high office the guests hold
listen to see if they speak of the times of yao and shun
while they discuss the current affairs of the empire

then after everyone has eaten and drunk their fill
everyone retires for a little time of rest
perhaps playing a friendly game of wei qi

if you further ask who is the most frequent of guests
know that they are zhang ji and fan cong shi
they come with or without official reason
often only to discuss certain philosophies in depth
or even for a bit of the most superficial gossip

people who like to study are often visitors
within these four walls they ask for my advice
how can i not scare away their doubts
and offer my opinions of various things

so if i do not continually try to improve myself
i will not differ from the more ordinary of people
how could i then dare to sit shoulder to shoulder
discussing affairs with the scholars of the court

this poem i share with you my children
do not wait to begin your studies
my late start was difficult to overcome

murphy wondering how in hell he succeeded in life

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 23

the catalpa trees in the courtyard

i have a stand of five catalpa trees in my courtyard
they all stand within an area of 20 feet square
all around their trunks are enveloped with vines
reaching up to the leafy branches, then hanging down

up above it all the treetops reach to the sky
when the sun rises in the east, i sit to their west
in the evening as the sun sinks, i sit to their east
in the midday sun at its zenith, i sit in their middle

that’s when i look up to marvel at the glorious canopy
not even the smallest gap can be seen through the green
in the morning when the sun is not yet up, or after sunset
i walk around these great trees eight or nine times

in the morning i see bright pearls of fragrant dew glitter
in the evening, moonlight through a mist rising above them
and even though one would think their nature would be limited
i return again and again to the attraction of these five trees

but when guests come i prefer not to show them my special place
how could i not attract influential ministers with such simplicity
if a man should invite all to share such a delightful place
he would always have guests in great numbers come to visit

and if such a man were then to make himself scarce
his guests would still wish to visit that special place
i confess that when i go visit other places, nothing interests me
i tend not to go out but to stay with my beloved catalpa trees

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 24

i enjoy the moonlight awaiting the arrival of ministerial secretary zhang ji (18th of his clan) and an official of the secret archives wang jian (6th of his clan)

yesterday was already the fifteenth night of the month
but the moon had not waxed into this magnificent fullness
now, as you come to visit, the winds pick up and dew appears

the passing clouds shine like scattered white stones
strewn along the edges of the dark depths of the night sky
the moon is not afraid in its loneliness in these heavens
and has risen to its zenith to shine for your approval

all the greater is my joy under tonight’s full moon
when two such glorious guests come to visit me
i am sorry only for the paucity of refreshments i serve
but perhaps this song will serve to please such as yourselves

murphy a humble host always offering his best

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 25

in response to a poem written by li feng ji concerning a great sacrifice to heaven and earth he officiated at (on behalf of the emperor) wherein he was seized by contemplation of nature, (handed over to some old friends).

at sunrise the individual stars of the jiao constellation glint as cold dew
the rivers and fields clear and distinct in the crisp, transparent air
the great statesman, li feng ji, brings a full dignity to the act of sacrifice
he arrives on the purely swept road with beautiful equipage on a magnificent horse

the round sky altar rises high and flat, ready to accept the gift of a life
village trees are partly yellowed, partly still green, harvest ready in the fields
this landscape brings a longing to retire to the mountains and valleys
he sighs loudly, clearly exhausted from the hectic rigors of a city life

were not the other officials nearby, wearing their trappings of office
did you not exercise your full humanity so the future of the dynasty was assured
did you not proceed in peace so the use of weapons would not be necessary

you put forth the best of your being in this instance
you sang the appropriate song to bring beneficent wind and rain
for the harvest depended on your feelings of inner peace
it was your time, the emperor rarely sees such percipient wisdom

murphy reaching out to acknowledge his talented peers

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 26

answering the poem of pei du (duke of jin guo) concerning the artificial mountain in his garden (11 rhymes)

you, oh duke, truly love mountains, looking at them morning til night
you grieve when you have only mountains in your mind that you cannot enter
you repeatedly welcome men from the mountains who bring canyon stones
when they leave with your silks and gold, they return back up to their homes

you took these stones and placed them decorously on your garden’s hills
now cliffs and caves deepen feelings like ghosts, split rocks reach to the sky
each day you sit within this wonderland with friends and relatives listening to music
who would have thought the heng and huo mountains contained such majesty

before fu yue became a minister he was a stone mason, working in a rocky wilderness
powerful tai gong was once a lowly fisherman angling in the swift running bo xi river
but here you walk through your artificial mountains after you achieved high office
state affairs behind you, beloved by the people, in full trust of the current ruler

murphy imagining a proper retirement

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 27

together with zhang ji (18th of his clan) i imitate the poem of yuan ji (the commander of the emperor’s park-troops) entitled: a day and another night have passed

a day and then a day again, a morning and yet another morning
i feel only they are getting worse, i find none better than another
the food tastes the same every day, the work just as monotonous
i do not know why i still live. who can help me in this dismal life.

the rich and the honorable officials shackle themselves with worry
the poor and common folk have worries visited upon them
wherever i look there is no one who is satisfied with their lot

and myself, i lead a life as useless as a horse who has taken the bridle
i am like the crane in a cage whose flight feathers are clipped
i am like the hare caught in the net who cannot jump, left nor right

there is no other choice but to read the venerable old books
to lift the gourd in drunkenness as my ancestors did before me
i do not know the future nor what else lies in store, so i sing this song

murphy practicing his eight bar blues

 

 

 

 

 

han yu vii 28

i escort zhu go jiao as he leaves for sui zhou to study with the governor li fan

li fan, count of ye xian has 30,000 book roles in his house
each roll is labeled, all look new, as if never unrolled and read
but for a man with his prodigious memory, one brief scan is enough
the literature of antiquity is splendid and li fan has it stored in his heart

he is fifty years old and has been governor six times in the provinces
his old house in chang an is most often boarded up and left unused
the offices in the capital are always filled, he has never found a place there
and even though i am employed in the court my influence there is weak
i have repeatedly spoken in favor of his appointment here but to no avail

you, oh zhu go jiao, leave to visit him and study, i give escort to the chan river
i look ever eastward as you slowly slip from view, my eyes follow your path
now you will once again have the chance to enlarge your knowledge of this world

to see the dragon fish one must visit the shore of the great sea
to follow the brown goose one must soar on the gusty winds
please write new poems and send me a few each month
two or three would seem to be a proper missive to enjoy

murphy keeping in touch with the poets of his acquaintance

 

 

 

 

 

han yu VII 29

my first trip on the southern rivers (1 of 3)

beneath the southern mountain, i row my boat
i go upstream without wishing to return
the landscape’s beauty is even better along this way
in deep shadows i drive along wooded banks

a few turns later i am blocked by a crossing dam
some protruding rocks threaten to stove in the boat
malicious waves regret the boat’s making a safe landing

on the secluded shore i manage to catch a few fish to eat
rain drops arrive driven by the evening wind
later as it clears the crook of the new moon appears

i’m afraid i have only a few more years left to me
the only regret i have, days on leave have come so late
the sickness brings on this despairing thought
and not my desire to acquire high fame as a hermit

murphy regretting nothing, even the bad times

 

 

 

 

 

han yu VII 30

my first trip on the southern rivers (2 of 3)

although the southern river flows fast and clear here
one does not see another boat, either rowing or sailing
so the mountain farmers are astonished by me
they crowd along the shore following me along

no one lets me out of their sight, especially the children
but even the old white heads with their walking sticks
they all bring melons to give me and ask me to stay
i tell them i am on sick leave and feel better here

fortunately i have more salary than i will need
enough to build a house in the fields to the west
i would wish to have barns filled with rice and grain
and would have no more worries about my meals

though i found a somewhat better place upstream
i came back down to here, i like it quite a bit more
i wish only that i will not be a bother to the local villagers
i will need to rely on them for many necessary things

i wish to celebrate their religious festivals throughout the year
i can sacrifice chickens or pigs in the spring and fall
we can then share our bounty in ritual feasting

murphy imagining a few more golden years

 

 

 

 

 

han yu VII 31

my first trip on the southern rivers (3 of 3)

my legs were weak and i could not walk
so i had to take leave of the imperial court
here, being lean, i can be carried by a litter
how else could i explore this beautiful landscape

at the foot of the famed southern mountains
there are beautiful clear waters, interesting rocks
and i have learned to maneuver my small boat here
to navigate slowly, poling around in the shallows

i do not trust myself rowing through the central waves
they rush past me continually about fifteen feet away
ah, here, at the edge of the sandbar a dotting of willows
with weathered old rocks scattered about

but it grows late, i won’t get back home til night has fallen
i am tired, but who would gainsay me these stirring trips

murphy stubborn and willful, independently old