Friday, December 17, 2010

Two Chinese Snow Poems

Although I am mindful of the inevitable dangers of translation, I enjoy reading Chinese poetry -- in particular, the great poets of the T'ang Dynasty (618-907): Wang Wei, Po Chu-i, Tu Fu, and Li Po.  In recognition of the season, I offer two snow poems.  The translations are by Burton Watson, who, along with Arthur Waley, provided me with an introduction to Chinese verse.

The first poem is by Po Chu-i (772-846):

                         Night Snow

I wondered why the covers felt so cold,
and then I saw how bright my window was.
Night far gone, I know the snow must be deep --
from time to time I hear the bamboos cracking.

                                 Pekka Halonen, "Talvimaisema" (1917)

The second poem is by Liu Tsung-Yuan (773-819):

                              River Snow

From a thousand hills, bird flights have vanished;
on ten thousand paths, human traces wiped out:
lone boat, an old man in straw cape and hat,
fishing alone in the cold river snow.

                             Pekka Halonen, "Winter Landscape" (1919)

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