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YUAN, Mei


(translations: L.A. CRANMER-BYNG & S.A KAPADIA)


A Feast of Lanterns

In spring for sheer delight

I set the lanterns swinging through the trees,

Bright as the myriad argosies of night,

That ride the clouded billows of the sky.

Red dragons leap and plunge in gold and silver seas,

And, O my garden gleaming cold and white,

Thou hast outshone the far faint moon on high.


The Secret Land

The flower fairies bring

Their playmate Spring,

But the Spring goes

And takes no rose.

She breaks all hearts

To incense and departs.

The river fain would keep

One cloud upon its breast

Of the twilight flocks that sweep

Like red flamingoes fading west,

Away, away,

To build beyond the day.


Give me the green gloom of a lofty tree,

Leaf and bough to shutter and bar

My dream of the world that ought to be

From the drifting ghosts of the things that are.


Mine is a secret land where Spring

And sunset clouds cease wandering.


Willow flowers

O willow flowers like flakes of snow,

Where do your wandering legions go?

Little we care, and less we know!

Our ways are the ways of the wind;

Our life in the whirl, and death in the drifts below.


In An Old Library


Ten thousand tomes with pendant discs of jade,

Bowls of old Shang with bronze of Chow displayed,

And suddenly the small

Tinkle of girdle gems floats through the hall,

As though the wind custodian sings:—

"I guard the fragrance of a thousand springs.

Draw near! draw near!

Ten thousand yesterdays are gathered here.


After The Rain


In the Pavilion of Green Purity

The green of the circling lawns is mirrored anew,

Across the crystal frontiers 2 that divide

Are smiling flowers and raindrops glancing through.

And lo, the strange blue void wells clear of the clouds

Like a sky beyond a sky, with a blue beyond the blue.


Home

Surely there sings no lighter heart than mine beneath the sky!

And now, companion of my nights of long moon-dreams, good-bye!

For mine is the silver dragon car

That hovers beyond the Rainbow Dome,

And it's oh to be galloping, galloping home

Where my dream-born children are!


Illusion


’Tis we that wail the hour of birth,

’Tis others weep the hour we die.

If I am sad, ’tis others sing;

Should they lament, I will be feasting.

All flows, all passes, like yon stream;

Like yonder wind-wheel all revolves.

We change the fire-drill, changing not the fire;

New lamps or old, what matters it?

’Tis laughable that all men flock in crowds

To worship Buddhas and the Genii;

Austerities mean cramp and weariness,

And genuflections to the Rites a headache.

’Tis but a tangle of marsh-lights after all,

We cannot seize the shadow of the wind.

What if the gods made answer to our prayers?

With shouts of laughter I should drive the crowd.


A Challenge From The Moon


The moon leans mirrored on the dark guitar

As though she fears its cadences unheard

May lapse into the night. Oh! I am stirred

By some some rare tone afar

Caught from the drifting Palaces of Cold, 1

Where pale musicians through the moon-mists peer,

And challenged into song. Of waters rolled

Seaward I sing. Now clear

Now muffled in the wreathèd haze, now fall

My chords far strangled down the forest. All

My cares are centred in the strings, and I forget

That night and dawn on the long grey line have met.