Six Translations from The Mountain Poems of Meng Hao-Jan (Archipelago Books, 2004)
    translated by David Hinton

Visiting the Hermitage of Ch'an Monk Jung

In the mountaintop meditation hut — just a monk's robes.
And outside windows, no one. Birds at the stream take flight.

Yellow dusk stretching half-way down the mountain road,
I hear cascades in love with kingfisher-greens gone dark.

Looking for T'eng's Old Recluse Home

Human endeavor's gone in a single morning,
and a recluse's three paths vanish in weeds.

First I hear you're resting at the Chang River,
now you're among T'ai Mountain's wandering

dead. There's a pond here still tinged with ink,
but autumn's tumbled out of mountain clouds,

no hidden boats to find. You understood, hid
all beneath heaven inside all beneath heaven.

Early Plums

Challenging winter in the garden, early
plums blossom. It's the same every year:

girls clamber into them, cut down limbs,
parade blossoms home to grace mirrors.

Looking's just not enough, they all exult,
dying to set out with their clippers again.

Returning Home to Deer-Gate Mountain at Night

As day fades into dusk, the bell at a mountain temple sounds.
Fish-Bridge Island is loud with people clamoring at the ferry,

and others follow sandy shores toward their river village.
But returning home to Deer-Gate, I paddle my own little boat,

Deer-Gate's incandescent moonlight opening misty forests,
until suddenly I've entered old Master P'ang's isolate realm.

Cliffs the gate, pines the path — it's forever still and silent,
just this one recluse, this mystery coming and going of itself.

Sent to Ch'ao, the Palace Reviser

You polish words in rue-scented libraries,
and I live in bamboo-leaf gardens, a recluse

wandering each day the same winding path
home to rest in the quiet, no noise anywhere.

A bird soaring the heights chooses its tree,
but the hedge soon tangles impetuous goats.

Today, things seen becoming thoughts felt:
this is where you start forgetting the words.

Spring Dawn

In spring sleep, dawn arrives unnoticed.
Suddenly, all around, I hear birds in song.

A loud night. Wind and rain came, tearing
blossoms down. Who knows few or many?

David Hinton has translated many volumes of ancient Chinese poetry, including Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China (Counterpoint, 2002). He is also the first translator in over a century to translate the four originary masterworks of Chinese philosophy: Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, Analects, and Mencius. Hinton has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as numerous fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has also been awarded the Landon Translation Award by the Academy of American Poets. His book of original poems, Fossil Sky, appeared in March. He lives in East Calais, Vermont.

The poems here are from his new book, The Mountain Poems of Meng Hao-Jan (Archipelago Books, 2004).

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