To celebrate Chinese New Year we thought we’d share some poetry from our edition of Poems of the Late T’ang, translated and edited by A.C. Graham. This one is from Meng Chiao (751-814), perhaps the best poet from the circle around Han Yu, and famous for his bare, bleak style.
Sadness of the Gorges
Above the gorges, one thread of sky:
Cascades in the gorges twine a thousand cords.
High up, the slant of splintered sunlight, moonlight:
Beneath, curbs to the wild heave of the waves.
The shock of a gleam, and then another,
In depths of shadow frozen for centuries:
The rays between the gorges do not halt at noon;
Where the straits are perilous, more hungry spittle.
Trees lock their roots in rotted coffins
And the twisted skeletons hang tilted upright:
Branches weep as the frost perches
Mournful cadences, remote and clear.
A spurned exile’s shrivelled guts
Scald and seethe in the water and fire he walks through.
A lifetime’s like a fine-spun thread,
The road goes up by the rope at the edge.
When he pours his libation of tears to the ghosts in the stream
The ghosts gather, a shimmer on the waves.