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Title: Gems of Chinese Literature: Verse
Author: Herbert A Giles
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eBook No.: 0800171.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: February 2008
Date most recently updated: February 2008

This eBook was produced by: John Bickers and Dagny

Production notes:

  This text was typed up from the "revised and greatly enlarged" 2nd
  edition, published in 1923 by Kelly & Walsh, Ltd., Shanghai, also
  Hongkong--Singapore--Yokohama--Hankow. The book consists of the
  companion work on prose and this verse volume bound together.

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Title: Gems of Chinese Literature: Verse
Author: Herbert A Giles

First Published 1883.

Etext prepared by John Bickers,
              and Dagny,

                      GEMS OF CHINESE LITERATURE


               HERBERT A. GILES, Hon. LL.D. (Aberdeen)

         Professor of Chinese in the University of Cambridge

                           PREPARER'S NOTE

  This text was typed up from the "revised and greatly enlarged" 2nd
  edition, published in 1923 by Kelly & Walsh, Ltd., Shanghai, also
  Hongkong--Singapore--Yokohama--Hankow. The book consists of the
  companion work on prose and this verse volume bound together.


In translating Chinese poetry, so soon as the meaning has been
secured, there is always open for its reproduction a choice between
rhymed verse and prose. Personally, I am on the side of the former. It
is a much more difficult feat to achieve than a prose rendering,
further involving, as it does, considerable "labour of the file;" that
is, if the /meaning/, which is essential in both cases, is to be
retained in approximately all its fullness,--a consummation
unfortunately denied to the /spirit/, whether the vehicle be verse or

All Chinese poetry is lyrical, in the sense that it was originally
intended to be set to music and sung; and the great bulk of it is also
lyrical in the later senses of the term, as well as in rhyme.
Swinburne, in his /Essays and Studies/, 1875, says "Rhyme is the
native condition of lyric verse in English; a rhymeless lyric is a
maimed thing." Mr. George Moore in /The Observer/ of 9th June, 1918,
declares that "verse cannot be translated into verse," and that all
such attempts are "an amateurish adventure." It will surprise many to
hear that Conington, Fitzgerald, Rossetti, Burton, and other notable
translators of verse into verse were mere amateurs; all the same, Mr.
Moore is entitled to his own opinion. Keats, on the other hand, tells
us that never did he breathe the pure serene of Homer until he heard
Chapman speak out loud and bold in his rhymed versions of the Iliad
and the Odyssey; but there is no record of any one into whose ken the
accurate prose version of Butcher and Lang has ever swum like a new

Herewith a word-for-word translation of "The Chaste Wife's Reply,"
with which the general reader may compare my rhymed version, and may
be able to judge how far I have drifted from the meaning of the

  Sir know handmaid have husband
  Offer handmaid pair bright pearls
  Sympathize sir entangle floss purpose
  Wrap stop red silk vest
  Handmaid home lofty storey connect park rise
  Good man hold halberd bright glory inside
  Know sir use mind like sun moon
  Serve husband swear intend together live die
  Return sir bright pearls pair tears drop
  Hate not mutual meet not marry time

The above is written with five words to each of the first four lines,
and with seven words to the remaining six. It must not be supposed
that each Chinese monosyllable presents to the reader the same bald
front as the English equivalent which I have set down. That is where
style and spirit come in; neither of them communicable in an alien

Chinese poetry may be written with any number of words from one to
eleven, or even more, to each line; and it is hoped that the above
example will show how it is possible to extract sense from a congeries
of monosyllables unconnected by most of the parts of speech which
guide, or fail to guide, the reader of an English poem. This feature,
constant in Chinese poetry, can be produced as a /tour de force/ in
other languages. A verse, consisting of only one monosyllabic word to
the line, which yields immediate sense, and one sense only, can easily
be constructed in English. With apologies for its triviality, I hasten
to add--


The first edition of this work was published in 1898, and has long
been out of print. The present edition, considerably enlarged, is a
companion volume to "Gems of Chinese Literature," also in its second
and enlarged edition, which contains specimens from the great prose
writers of all ages down to the present day. My best thanks are due to
my son, Mr. Lancelot Giles, H.B.M. Consul at Ch`ang-sha, who has
carried out for me the troublesome task of proof-reading.

                                                     Herbert A. Giles.

Cambridge, 1922.

         Dear Land of Flowers, forgive me!--that I took
           These snatches from thy glittering wealth of song,
         And twisted to the uses of a book
           Strains that to alien harps can ne'er belong.

         Thy gems shine purer in their native bed
           Concealed, beyond the pry of vulgar eyes;
         Until, through labyrinths of language led,
           The patient student grasps the glowing prize.

         Yet many, in their race toward other goals,
           May joy to feel, albeit at second-hand,
         Some far faint heart-throb of poetic souls
           Whose breath makes incense in the Flowery Land.

                                                        H. A. G.

                      GEMS OF CHINESE LITERATURE


                               THE ODES

  These are some 300 of the old national ballads of China, collected
  and edited by Confucius, 551-479 B.C. On one occasion, the Master
  said to his son, "Have you studied the /Odes/?" And on receiving
  an answer in the negative, Confucius warned him, saying, "If you
  do not study the /Odes/, you will have no command of language."

                         TO A YOUNG GENTLEMAN

Don't come in, sir, please!
Don't break my willow-trees!
Not that /that/ would very much grieve me;
But alack-a-day! what would my parents say?
And love you as I may,
I cannot bear to think what that would be.

Don't cross my wall, sir, please!
Don't spoil my mulberry-trees!
Not that /that/ would very much grieve me;
But alack-a-day! what would my brothers say?
And love you as I may,
I cannot bear to think what that would be.

Keep outside, sir, please!
Don't spoil my sandal-trees!
Not that /that/ would very much grieve me;
But alack-a-day! what the world would say!
And love you as I may,
I cannot bear to think what that would be.[1]

                         A MALE LIGHT-OF-LOVE

Away I must run;
There is work to be done,
Though I'm thinking to-day
Of the eldest Miss K.
In the mulberry-grove
I shall pour out my love;
For she's promised to met me
And as lover to greet me--
  The eldest Miss K.

Away I must run;
There is work to be done.
But to-day I shall be
With the eldest Miss E.
In the mulberry-grove
I shall pour out my love;
For she's promised to meet me
And as lover to greet me--
  The eldest Miss E.

Away I must run;
There is work to be done.
But to-day I shall sigh
For the eldest Miss Y.
In the mulberry-grove
I shall pour out my love;
For she's promised to meet me
And as lover to greet me--
  The eldest Miss Y.

                      "AT BEST A CONTRADICTION"

A clever man will build a town,
A clever woman pull it down.
Though woman's wit is sometimes heard,
She's really an ill-omened bird;
Her long tongue's like a flight of stairs
Which leads to miserable cares.
It is not God who mars our lives,
The fault is rather with our wives.
Of all we cannot teach or train,
Women and eunuchs are our bane.


The ripe plums are falling,--
  One-third of them gone;
To my lovers I'm calling,
  "'Tis time to come on!"

The ripe plums are dropping,--
  Two-thirds are away;
"'Tis time to be popping!"
  To my lovers I say.

Down has dropt every plum!
  In baskets they lie.
What, will no lover come?
  "Now or never!" say I.

                               TO A MAN

You seemed a guileless youth enough,
Offering for silk your woven stuff;[2]
But silk was not required by you:
I was the silk you had in view.

With you I crossed the ford, and while
We wandered on for many a mile
I said, "I do not wish delay,
But friends must fix our wedding-day. . . .
Oh, do not let my words give pain,
But with the autumn come again."

And then I used to watch and wait
To see you passing through the gate;
And sometimes when I watched in vain,
My tears would flow like falling rain;
But when I saw my darling boy,
I laughed and cried aloud for joy.
The fortune-tellers, you declared,
Had all pronounced us duly paired;
"Then bring a carriage," I replied,
"And I'll away to be your bride."

The mulberry-leaf, not yet undone
By autumn chill, shines in the sun.
O tender dove, I would advise,
Beware the fruit that tempts thy eyes![3]
O maiden fair, not yet a spouse,
List lightly not to lovers' vows!
A man may do this wrong, and time
Will fling its shadow o'er his crime;
A woman who has lost her name
Is doomed to everlasting shame.

The mulberry-tree upon the ground
Now sheds its yellow leaves around.
Three years have slipped away from me,
Since first I shared your poverty;
And now again, alas the day!
Back through the ford I take my way.
My heart is still unchanged, but you
Have uttered words now proved untrue;
And you have left me to deplore
A love that can be mine no more.

For three long years I was your wife,
And led in truth a toilsome life;
Early to rise and late to bed,
Each day alike passed o'er my head.
I honestly fulfilled my part;
And you,--well, you have broke my heart.
The truth my brothers will not know,
So all the more their gibes will flow.
I grieve in silence and repine
That such a wretched fate is mine.

Ah, hand in hand to face old age!--
Instead, I turn a bitter page.
Oh for the river-banks of yore;
Oh for the much-loved marshy shore;
The hours of girlhood, with my hair
Ungathered, as we lingered there.
The words we spoke, that seemed so true,
I little thought that I should rue;
I little thought the vows we swore
Would some day bind us two no more.

                             THE CRICKET

The cricket chirrups in the hall,
  The year is dying fast;
Now let us hold high festival
  Ere the days and months be past.
Yet push not revels to excess
  That our fair fame be marred;
Lest pleasures verge to wickedness
  Let each be on his guard.

[1] Set to music by Cyril Scott and J. A. Carpenter.

[2] Pieces of stamped linen, used as a circulating medium before the
    introduction of the bank-note.

[3] The dove is very fond of mulberries, and is said to become
    intoxicated by them.

                       ANONYMOUS ANCIENT POETRY

                        THE HUSBANDMAN'S SONG

Work, work,--from the rising sun
Till sunset comes and the day is done
  I plough the sod
  And harrow the clod,
And meat and drink both come to me,
So what care I for the powers that be?

                             YAO'S ADVICE[1]

With trembling heart and cautious steps
  Walk daily in fear of God. . . .
Though you never trip over a mountain,
  You may often trip over a clod.

                     INSCRIPTION ON A WASH-BASIN

Oh, rather than sink in the world's foul tide
  I would sink in the bottomless main;
For he who sinks in the world's foul tide
  In noisome depths shall for ever abide,
But he who sinks in the bottomless main
  May hope to float to the surface again.

[1] An Emperor of the 3rd millennium B.C., formerly regarded as

                       CH` YAN OR CH` P`ING

                             332-295 B.C.

  The typical loyal statesman of China. Unable to prevail against
  the evil policy of his sovereign, he committed suicide by
  drowning. The modern Dragon-Boat festival is supposed to be a
  search for his body. See /Gems of Chinese Literature: Prose/.

                              THE BATTLE

We take our trusty spears in hand,
  We don our coats of mail;[1]
When chariot-wheels are interlocked,
  With daggers we assail.
Standards obscure the light of day,
  Like rushing clouds their brunt;
Arrows on both sides fall around;
  All struggle to the front.
Our line at last is broken through,
  Beneath the foeman's heels;
My own near horse is killed outright,
  The off horse wounded reels,
The team becomes a useless mass,
  Entangled in the wheels.
With stick of jade I strike the drum,[2]
  And beat to hurry on,
For though by God's decree I fell,
  My ardour was not gone.
Our best men were all done to death,
  Their corpses strewed the plain;
They went out but did not come in,
  Not to return again,
And now upon the battle-field,
  Far from their homes they lie,
Their long swords still within their grasp,
  And their stout bows near by.
A head is here, a body there,
  And yet they never quailed,
Being so brave and soldiers too,
  Nor in their duty failed.
But now, though lifeless clay, their souls
  Are with the heavenly hosts,
To lead once more an army corps
  Of disembodied ghosts.


The funeral rites are over;
  Now let us beat the drum. . . . . . . . .
The priest gives up his plantain-wand,[3]
  And now the dancers come.
In unison fair maidens sing,
  "Asters for autumn, orchids for spring"--
Thus it always is,
  And thus it has always been.[4]

[1] Of buffalo-hide; not of rhinoceros-hide, as has been wrongly

[2] The drum is the signal for advance, the gong for retreat.

[3] Passing it on to the next dancer after his own performance.

[4] Life must go on again as usual, with dance and song and flowers.

                               SUNG Y

                           4th Century B.C.

   Nephew of Ch` Yan, and like his uncle a statesman and a poet.


Among birds the phnix, among fishes the leviathan
  holds the chiefest place;
Cleaving the crimson clouds
  the phnix soars apace,
With only the blue sky above,
  far into the realms of space;
But the grandeur of heaven and earth
  is as naught to the hedge-sparrow race.
And the leviathan rises in one ocean
  to go to rest in a second,
While the depth of a puddle by a humble minnow
  as the depth of the sea is reckoned.
And just as with birds and fishes,
  so too it is with man;
Here soars a phnix,
  there swims a leviathan.
Behold the philosopher, full of nervous thought,
  with a fame that never grows dim,
Dwelling complacently alone,--say,
  what can the vulgar herd know of him?

                              MEI SHNG

                           2nd Century B.C.

  Statesman and poet, of whose writings only nine short poems


Green grows the grass upon the bank,
The willow-shoots are long and lank;
A lady in a glistening gown
Opens the casement and looks down.
The roses on her cheek blush bright,
Her rounded arm is dazzling white;
A singing-girl in early life,
And now a careless rou's wife. . . . . .
Ah, if he does not mind his own,
He'll find some day the bird has flown!


The red hibiscus and the reed,
The fragrant flowers of marsh and mead,--
All these I gather as I stray,
As though for one now far away.
I strive to pierce with straining eyes
The distance that between us lies.
Alas that hearts which beat as one
Should thus be parted and undone!

                        T`AI TSUNG (LIU HNG)

                            Died 156 B.C.

  Fourth Emperor of the Han dynasty, and a wise ruler. He is one of
  the 24 examples of filial piety, having waited on his sick mother
  for three years without changing his clothes.

                      ON THE DEATH OF HIS FATHER

I look up, the curtains are there as of yore;
I look down, and there is the mat on the floor;
These things I behold, but the man is no more.

To the infinite azure his spirit has flown,
And I am friendless, uncared-for, alone,
Of solace bereft, save to weep and to moan.

The deer on the hillside caressingly bleat,
And offer the grass for their young ones to eat,
While birds of the air to their nestlings bring meat.

But I a poor orphan must ever remain,
My heart, still so young, overburdened with pain
For him I shall never set eyes on again.

'Tis a well-worn old saying, which all men allow,
That grief stamps the deepest of lines on the brow:
Alas for my hair, it is silvery now!

Alas for my father, cut off in his pride!
Alas that no more I may stand by his side!
Oh where were the gods when that great hero died?

                        SHIH TSUNG (LIU CH`)

                             156-87 B.C.

  Sixth Emperor of the Han dynasty. During his reign copper coins
  were cast, academical degrees were instituted, Greek music took
  the place of the old native art, and the calendar was
  scientifically reformed. Personally, he was a Taoist and made
  efforts to obtain an elixir of immortality.

                            AMARI ALIQUID

The autumn blast drives the white scud in the sky,
Leaves fade, and wild geese sweeping south meet the eye;
The scent of late flowers fills the soft air above,
My heart full of thoughts of the lady I love.
In the river the barges for revel-carouse
Are lined by white waves which break over their bows;
Their oarsmen keep time to the piping and drumming. . . .
  Yet joy is naught
  Alloyed by the thought
That youth slips away and that old age is coming.


The sound of rustling silk is stilled,
With dust the marble courtyard filled;
No footfalls echo on the floor,
Fallen leaves in heaps block up the door . . .
For she, my pride, my lovely one is lost,
And I am left, in hopeless anguish tossed.

[1] Referring to the loss of a favourite concubine.

                             PAN CHIEH-Y

                           1st Century B.C.

  For a long time chief favourite of the Emperor Ch`ng Ti. "Chieh-
  y" was a title conferred upon the concubine most distinguished
  for literary ability.

                            THE AUTUMN FAN[1]

O fair white silk, fresh from the weaver's loom,
Clear as the frost, bright as the winter snow--
See! friendship fashions out of thee a fan,
Round as the round moon shines in heaven above;
At home, abroad, a close companion thou,
Stirring at every move the grateful gale;
And yet I fear, ah me! that autumn chills,
Cooling the dying summer's torrid rage,
Will see thee laid neglected on the shelf,
All thought of by-gone days, like them by-gone.

[1] This term is now used of a deserted wife.


                           1st Century B.C.

                              CARPE DIEM

Man reaches scarce a hundred, yet his tears
Would fill a lifetime of a thousand years.
When days are short and night's long hours move slow,
Why not with lamp in search of pleasure go?
This day alone gives sure enjoyment--this!
Why then await to-morrow's doubtful bliss?
Fools grudge to spend their wealth while life abides,
And then posterity their thrift derides.
We cannot hope, like Wang Tzu-ch`iao,[1] to rise
And find a paradise beyond the skies.

                          THE ELIXIR OF LIFE

Forth from the eastern gate my steeds I drive,
  And lo! a cemetery meets my view;
Aspens around in wild luxuriance thrive,
  The road is fringed with fir and pine and yew.
Beneath my feet lie the forgotten dead,
  Wrapped in a twilight of eternal gloom;
Down by the Yellow Springs[2] their earthly bed,
  And everlasting silence is their doom.
How fast the lights and shadows come and go!
  Like morning dew our fleeting life has passed;
Man, a poor traveller on earth below,
  Is gone, while brass and stone can still outlast.
Time is inexorable, and in vain
  Against his might the holiest mortal strives;
Can /we/ then hope this precious boon to gain,
  By strange elixirs to prolong our lives? . . .
Oh, rather quaff good liquor while we may,
  And dress in silk and satin every day!

[1] A prince of the 6th century B.C., who rode up to heaven on the
    back of a crane. See /Ts`ui Hao/.

[2] The Chinese Hades.

                               FNG YEN

                           1st Century A.D.

  A precocious boy--at 9 he could repeat the /Odes/--who entered
  official life under Wang Mang, the Usurper, and later on served
  under the first two Emperors of the E. Han dynasty. He left behind
  him a large collection of miscellaneous writings.

                          "A BOLD PEASANTRY"

When you ride in a cart,
  let the wheels be your care;
In governing States,
  look well after the masses.
For just as a cart
  without wheels cannot fare,
So a State comes to grief
  if reduced to the classes.


                       1st or 2nd Century A.D.

                     From the /Yo fu/ collection.

                        TO A DEPARTING HUSBAND

Drawn by brave steeds thy chariot
  out on its way has set;
My heart will always follow thee
  and never can forget.
Upon thy western journey now
  I wish thee all repose. . . . .
Ah, would I were thy shadow, dear,
  that I might follow close!
But a gloom has closed around thee,
  and thy shadow is not near.
Oh, pass into the light of day
  and once again appear!

                            A WAITING WIFE

Boom!--Boom!--the thunder peals;
A sense of happening o'er me steals.
I turn my ear to catch the sound--
'Tis not thy chariot-wheels!

                   "WHAT IS FRIENDSHIP BUT A NAME?"

I had a friend, a school-boy chum,
  And hand in hand we took our way;
But he to higher things has come,
  And I am left alone to-day.

                               A TRYST

In the snow on the mountain
  a hero is sitting . . . .
Through the forest by moonlight
  a maiden is flitting . . . .

                             LOVE'S SWAY

When Love has carried off the heart
  ten thousand miles away,
The glittering starlit sky above
  seems reft of every ray.

                              K`UNG JUNG

                            Died A.D. 208.

  A descendant from Confucius in the 20th Generation, and an anti-
  prohibitionist. "If my halls are full of guests," he said, "and my
  jars are full of wine, I am happy." He was put to death by Ts`ao
  Ts`ao (see /Gems of Chinese Literature: Prose/.)

                             A FIRST-BORN

The wanderer reaches home with joy
  From absence of a year and more;
His eye seeks a beloved boy--
  His wife lies weeping on the floor.

They whisper he is gone. The glooms
  Of evening fall; beyond the gate
A lonely grave in outline looms
  To greet the sire who came too late.

Forth to the little mound he flings,
  Where wild-flowers bloom on every side. . .
His bones are in the Yellow Springs,
  His flesh like dust is scattered wide.

"O child who never knew thy sire,
  For ever now to be unknown,
Ere long thy wandering ghost shall tire
  Of flitting friendless and alone.

"O son, man's greatest earthly boon,
  With thee I bury hopes and fears."
He bowed his head in grief and soon
  His breast was wet with rolling tears.

Life's dread uncertainty he knows,
But oh for this untimely close!

                               HS KAN

                      2nd and 3rd Centuries A.D.

  An official and poet who was ranked as one of the Seven Scholars
  of his day.

                          AN ABSENT HUSBAND

O floating clouds that swim in heaven above
Bear on your wings these words to him I love. . . .
Alas, you float along nor heed my pain,
And leave me here to love and long in vain!
I see other dear ones to their homes return,
And for his coming shall not I too yearn?
Since my lord left--ah me, unhappy day!--
My mirror's dust has not been brushed away;
My heart, like running water, knows no peace,
But bleeds and bleeds forever without cease.[1]

[1] See /Chang Chiu-ling/.

                               FU YAN

                           3rd Century A.D.

  A scholar and a statesman who rose by the year 268 to be Censor
  and Imperial Chamberlain. He was of such an eager disposition that
  whenever he had any Memorial to submit to the Emperor, he would
  proceed at once to the palace, at no matter what hour of the day
  or night, and sit there until audience at the following dawn. Thus
  he caught the chill of which he died. Seven only of his poems are
  still extant.

                            LOVE IMPETUOUS

The lover and maiden are fair to be seen;
Though close are their homes, there are mountains between.
With a cloud for a car and the wind for a horse,
The lover and maiden might meet in due course,
But clouds are uncertain, and breezes may drop,
While love is impatient and suffers no stop.

                              TS`AO CHIH

                             A.D. 192-232.

  Son of the great Ts`ao Ts`ao, and like Hs Kan one of the Seven
  Scholars of his day. He is said to have composed an impromptu
  stanza while walking only seven steps; reminding us of Lucilius,
  who threw off two hundred lines /stans pede in uno/.

                             THE BROTHERS

A fine dish of beans had been placed in the pot
With a view to a good mess of pottage, all hot.
The beanstalks, aflame, a fierce heat were begetting,
The beans in the pot were all fuming and fretting.
Yet the beans and the stalks were not born to be foes;
Oh why should these hurry to finish off those?

                               LIU KUN

                            Died A.D. 317.

  A distinguished military commander. While defending the city of
  Chin-yang against the Tartars, with no prospect of holding out, he
  mounted a tower by moonlight and played on the Tartar pipe. The
  besiegers were so overcome by their emotions and thoughts of home
  that next morning they raised the siege.

                              A BARMAID

A rainbow at morning was bridging the sky,
And fragrant a stream full of lilies hard by,
When lo! I beheld a young maid of fifteen,
Who stood, sweetly smiling, behind the canteen.

She outshone the flowers which blossomed around;
Men grudged that her shadow should fall on the ground;
So peerless her beauty and youth,--in a trice
I found I had paid for my wine double price!

                                FU MI

                      3rd and 4th Centuries A.D.

                            LOVERS PARTED

In the Kingdom of Yen
  a young gallant resides,
In the Kingdom of Chao
  a fair damsel abides;
No long leagues of wearisome
  road intervene,
But a chain of steep mountains
  is set in between.
Ye clouds, on your broad bosoms
  bear me afar,
The winds for my horses
  made fast to my car!
Ah, jade lies deep hid
  in the bowels of earth;
To the fair epidendrum
  the prairie gives birth;
And the clouds in the sky,
  they come not at call;
And the fickle breeze rises,
  alas, but to fall.
And so I am left
  with my thoughts to repine,
And think of that loved one
  who ne'er can be mine.

                            AFTER PARTING

Thy chariot and horses
  have gone and I fret
And long for the lover
  I ne'er can forget.

O wanderer, bound
  in far countries to dwell,
Would I were thy shadow!--
  I'd follow thee well.

And though clouds and though darkness
  my presence should hide,
In the bright light of day
  I would stand by thy side!


                            TRUE PLEASURES

The bright moon shining overhead,
  The stream beneath the breeze's touch,
Are pure and perfect joys indeed,--
  But few are they who think them such.

                     T`AO CH`IEN (T`AO YAN-MING)

                            A.D. 365-427.

  A magistrate who held office for only 83 days, resigning on the
  ground that he could not "crook the hinges of his back for five
  pecks of rice a day," his official salary. In private life he
  occupied himself with writing beautiful poetry, with music and
  flowers. He even composed his own funeral oration.

                              A PORTRAIT[1]

A scholar lives on yonder hill,
  His clothes are rarely whole to view,
Nine times a month he eats his fill,
  Once in ten years his hat is new.

A wretched lot!--and yet the while
He ever wears a sunny smile.

Longing to know what like was he,
  At dawn my steps a path unclosed
Where dark firs left the passage free
  And on the eaves the white clouds dozed.

But he, when spying my intent,
  Seized his guitar and swept the strings;
Up flew a crane towards heaven bent,
  And now a startled pheasant springs. . . .

Oh, I would live beside my friend--
  But not beyond the summer's end.

                               A PRAYER

Ye fluttering birds in plumage gay
  That to and fro direct your flight,--
The Western Mother's[2] court by day,
  The far-off mountain-peaks at night,--
Oh, be my messengers and go
  And bear to her these words of mine:
I ask for nothing here below
  Save length of years and depth of wine!

                             SIC TRANSIT

A tower a hundred feet erect
  Looks round upon the scene which girds;
'Tis here at eve the clouds collect,
  At dawn a trysting-place for birds.

Here hills and streams the observer hold,
  Or boundless prairie mocks the eyes:
Some famous warriors of old
  Made this their bloody battle-prize.

The centuries of time roll on,
  And I, a traveller, passing there,
Mark firs and cypresses all gone,
  And grave-mounds, high and low, laid bare.

The ruined tombs uncared-for stand--
  Where do their wandering spirits hide?--
Oh, glory makes us great and grand,
  And yet it has its seamy side.

[1] This poem is meant as a description of the writer.

[2] Now known to be Hera (Juno). See /Adversaria Sinica/, 1st Series,
    p. 1 and p. 298.

                               PAO CHAO

                            Died A.D. 466.

    An official and well-known poet. He was killed in a rebellion.


What do these halls of jasper mean,
  and shining floor,
Where tapestries of satin screen
  window and door?
A lady on a lonely seat,
Fair flowers which seem to smell as sweet
  as buds in spring.
Swallows flit past, a zephyr shakes
  the plum-blooms down;
She draws the blind, a goblet takes
  her thoughts to drown.
And now she sits in tears, or hums,
  nursing her grief
That in her life joy rarely comes
  to bring relief. . . . . . .
Oh for the humble turtle's flight,
  my mate and I;
Not the lone crane far out of sight
  beyond the sky!

                              CHANG YEN

                            A.D. 443-504.

  A statesman and voluminous writer. He is responsible for the first
  biography of a woman ever published in China.


To learn the art of fencing, forth
I wandered, with my master, north.
I saw an ancient battle-plain
Engirt by hills which still remain;
And while I gazed upon the scene,
A wide expanse of sky and green,
I thought how like a summer's day
Each warrior's name has passed away.

                          WU TI (HSIAO YEN)

                            A.D. 464-549.

  Founder in 502 of the Liang dynasty. A devout Buddhist, he
  interpreted the commandment "Thou shalt not kill!" in its
  strictest sense, and caused the sacrificial victims to be made of
  dough. Under stress of rebellion, he took refuge in a monastery,
  and died there of want and mortification.

                     "IN THE SPRING. . . . . . "

At the steps I am met
  by a scent-laden breeze;
The flowers in the court-yard
  are smiling their best.
When the mind is affected
  by spring thoughts like these,
Do you wonder that passion
  flames up in my breast?

                           ULTIMATE CAUSES

Trees grow, not alike,
  by the mound and the moat;
Birds sing in the forest
  with varying note;
Of the fish in the river
  some dive and some float;
The mountains rise high
  and the waters sink low,
But the why and the wherefore
  we never can know.

                            LIU HSIAO-WEI

                           6th Century A.D.

  An official in the service of the Prince of Chin-an. He died of
  disease during the campaign against the rebel, Hou Ching, A.D.

                            AT FIRST SIGHT

A couple of love-birds philandering nigh;
The moon intermittently seen in the sky . . .
Stay, who is the beauty with flowers in her hand,
Whose eyes and whose eyebrows my senses command?
Rich blues and bright greens shine behind the glass door,
And a casket of jade contains raiment galore;
The maiden herself is quite young I believe,
For she blushes and smiles as the wind flirts her sleeve.
                .   .   .   .   .   .   .
The bold to the crossbow can never return,
And how quench the passion with which I now burn?

                            HSIEH TAO-HNG

                      6th and 7th Centuries A.D.

  A statesman noted for his brilliant scholarship. He was called the
  Confucius of the West, a title which had already been given to a
  greater scholar of the 2nd Century A.D. He managed to offend the
  Emperor, and was put to death.


A week in the spring to the exile appears
Like an absence from home for a couple of years.
If home, with the wild geese of autumn, we're going,
Our hearts will be off ere the spring flowers are blowing.

                               WANG CHI

                      6th and 7th Centuries A.D.

  A strange, unconventional philosopher and poet; author, among
  other works, of a skit entitled Drunk Land. His career was marred
  by drunkenness, for which the disturbed and dangerous times may be
  pleaded as some excuse.

                            TO A KILL-JOY

Indulgence in the flowing bowl
Impedes the culture of the soul;
And yet, when all around me swill,
Shall I alone be sober still?

                              IN ABSENCE

At eve, I stand upon the bank and gaze;
  Restless, I know not where my bark may rest;
I see the forest through the autumn haze;
  I see the hills of radiance all divest;
I see the herdsman homing o'er the lea;
  I see the huntsman's laden horse return. . . . .
Alas, no loved one comes to beckon me!--
  I sit and croon the thoughts that in me burn.

                              WANG PIEH

                            A.D. 648-676.

  A precocious scholar, who began to compose at the age of six and
  took his degree at sixteen. Employed on the dynastic annals, he
  offended by denouncing the Emperor's fondness for cockfighting and
  was dismissed. Therefore he occupied himself with getting drunk
  and writing poetry--in that order. He was drowned on his way to
  Cochin China to see his banished father.


Near these islands a palace was built by a prince,
But its music and song have departed long since;
The hill-mists of morning sweep down on the halls,
At night the red curtains lie furled on the walls.
The clouds o'er the water their shadows still cast,
Things change like the stars: how few autumns have passed
And yet where is that prince? Where is he?--No reply,
Save the splash of the stream rolling ceaselessly by.

                            CH`N TZU-ANG

                            A.D. 656-698.

  After a youth spent in hunting and gambling, he became an intimate
  adviser of the famous Empress Wu who appeared in the Council
  Chamber wearing a false beard and subsequently took the title of
  "God Almighty." Arrested on a trumped-up charge, he died in


My eyes saw not the men of old;
And now their age away has rolled
I weep--to think I shall not see
The heroes of posterity!

                            AGAINST IDOLS

On Self the Prophet[1] never rests his eye,
  His to relieve the doom of humankind;
No fairy palaces beyond the sky,
  Rewards to come, are present to his mind.
And I have heard the faith by Buddha taught
  Lauded as pure and free from earthly taint;
Why then these carved and graven idols, fraught
  With gold and silver, gems, and jade, and paint?
The heavens that roof this earth, mountain and dale,
  All that is great and grand shall pass away;
And if the art of gods may not prevail,
  Shall man's poor handiwork escape decay?
Fools that ye are! In this ignoble light
The true faith fades and passes out of sight.

[1] This term includes the rulers under the Golden Age, Confucius,
    Mencius, and any other divinely-inspired teacher of the cardinal

                            HO CHIH-CHANG

                            Born A.D. 659.

  Poet and official who rose to be Director of the Imperial Library.
  He was one of the Eight Immortals of the Winecup, and the Emperor
  called him Devil Ho. Once, when drunk, he fell into a dry well and
  was found snoring at the bottom.

                              THE RETURN

Bowed down with age I seek my native place,
Unchanged my speech, my hair is silver now;
My very children do not know my face,
But smiling, ask, "O stranger, whence art thou?"

                            SUNG CHIH-WN

                            Died A.D. 710.

  A brilliant poet who had a disreputable career as an official. He
  was ultimately forced to commit suicide.

                               A VISION

The dust of the morn had been laid by a shower,
And the trees by the bridge were all covered with flower,
When a white palfrey passed with a saddle of gold,
And a damsel as fair as the fairest of old.

But she veiled so discreetly her charms from my eyes
That the boy who was with her quite felt for my sighs;
And although not a light-o'-love reckoned, I deem,
It was hard that this vision should pass like a dream.[1]

                           "THIS GENTLEMAN"[2]

There, on the banks of a verdant pool,
  with leaves of selfsame hue
And all its slender grace of form,
  he reared the tall bamboo.

But time sped on; phoenix came
  the precious fruit to taste;
For far from haunts of man they soar
  across the mountain's waste.[3]

And so, still young, with eager heart
  he fled the vulgar crowd,
Back to the hills true joys to find
  in every fleecy cloud.

And then, while silently he sat
  and nursed his conscious pride,
Not for a day "this gentleman"
  was absent from his side.

[1] Set to music by Cyril Scott.

[2] A name given to the bamboo by Wang Hui-chih (died A.D. 388), in
    whose memory this poem was written.

[3] Suggesting that Wang was unequal to official life.

                           CHANG CHIU-LING

                            A.D. 673-740.

  Statesman and poet; one of the first officials of the newly-
  instituted Han-lin College. On an Imperial birthday, when others
  presented costly articles, he offered only a collection of wise

                             BY MOONLIGHT

Over the sea the round moon rises bright,
And floods the horizon with its silver light.
In absence lovers grieve that nights should be,
But all the livelong night I think of thee.
I blow my lamp out to enjoy this rest,
And shake the gathering dewdrop from my vest.
Alas! I cannot share with thee these beams,
So lay be down to see thee in my dreams.

                          AN ABSENT HUSBAND[1]

Since my lord left--ah me, unhappy hour!--
The half-spun web hangs idly in my bower;
My heart is like the full moon, full of pains,
Save that 'tis always full and never wanes.

[1] See /Hs Kan/.

                             MNG HAO-JAN

                             A.D. 689-740.

  After failing at the public Examinations, he retired to the
  mountains and led the life of a hermit, producing poetry of the
  first order.


The sun has sunk behind the western hill,
  And darkness glides across the vale below;
Between the firs the moon shines cold and chill,
  No breezes whisper to the streamlet's flow.
Belated woodsmen homeward hurry past,
  Birds seek their evening refuge in the tree:
O my beloved, wilt thou come at last?
  With lute, among the flowers, I wait for thee.[1]

                             IN DREAMLAND

The sun has set behind the western slope,
  The eastern moon lies mirrored in the pool;
With streaming hair my balcony I ope,
  And stretch my limbs out to enjoy the cool.
Loaded with lotus-scent the breeze sweeps by,
  Clear dripping drops from tall bamboos I hear,
I gaze upon my idle lute and sigh:
  Alas no sympathetic soul is near!
And so I doze, the while before mine eyes
Dear friends of other days in dream-clad forms arise.

                              AT ANCHOR

I steer my boat to anchor
  by the mist-clad river eyot,
And mourn the dying day that brings me
  nearer to my fate.
Across the woodland wild I see
  the sky lean on the trees,
While close to hand the mirrored moon
  floats on the shining seas.

[1] Set to music by Cyril Scott.

                             LI SHIH-CHIH

                            Died A.D. 747.

  A Minister of State and one of the Eight Immortals of the Wine-
  cup. Falling into disfavour, he committed suicide by poison.

                            OUT OF OFFICE

For my betters--my office resigned--I make way,
And seek with the wine-cup to shorten the day.
You ask for the friends who once thronged in my hall:
Alas! with my place they have gone, one and all.

                               WANG WEI

                            A.D. 699-759.

  Famous as a poet and a painter; also, as a physician. His poems
  (like Livy's pages) were said to contain pictures, and his
  pictures to contain poems. After a brief official career, he went
  into seclusion.


Beneath the humble bamboo grove, alone,
  I seize my lute and sit and croon;
No ear to hear me, save my own;
  No eye to see me, save the moon.


We parted at the gorge and cried "Good cheer!"
The sun was setting as I closed my door;
Methought, the spring will come again next year,
  But he may come no more.

                              A RENCONTRE

Sir, from my dear old home you come,
  And all its glories you can name;
Oh tell me,--as the winter-plum
  Yet blossomed o'er the window-frame?

                       GOODBYE TO MNG HAO-JAN

Dismounted, o'er wine we had said our last say;
Then I whisper, "Dear friend, tell me whither away."
"Alas!" he replied, "I am sick of life's ills
"And I long for repose on the slumbering hills.
"But oh seek not to pierce where my footsteps may stray:
"The white clouds will soothe me for ever and ay."

                              TS`UI HAO

                           8th Century A.D.

                A poet, a wine-bibber, and a gambler.

                            HOME LONGINGS

Here a mortal once sailed up to heaven on a crane,[1]
And the Yellow-Crane Kiosque will for ever remain;[2]
But the bird flew away and will come back no more,
Though the white clouds are there as the white clouds of yore.
Away to the east lie fair forests of trees,
From the flowers on the west comes a scent-laden breeze,
Yet my eyes daily turn to their far-away home,
Beyond the broad River, its waves, and its foam.

[1] See "Carpe Diem."

[2] It was standing until quite recently, though probably several
    times restored.

                                LI PO

                            A.D. 705-762.

  Regarded by many as China's greatest poet, and popularly known as
  "The Banished Angel." He flourished at a dissolute Court, himself
  one of its most dissolute members. He was a founder of the drunken
  club called the Six Idlers of the Bamboo Brook, and also belonged
  to the Eight Immortals of the Wine-cup. He is said to have been
  drowned by leaning over the gunwale of a boat in a drunken effort
  to embrace the reflection of the moon.

                             TO A FIREFLY[1]

Rain cannot quench thy lantern's light,
Wind makes it shine more brightly bright;
Oh why not fly to heaven afar,
And twinkle near the moon--a star?

                              AT PARTING

The river rolls crystal as clear as the sky,
To blend far away with the blue waves of ocean;
Man alone, when the hour of departure is nigh,
With the wine cup can soothe his emotion.
The birds of the valley sing loud in the sun,
Where the gibbons their vigils will shortly be keeping;
I thought that with tears I had long ago done,
But now I shall never cease weeping.

                            NIGHT THOUGHTS

I wake, and moonbeams play around my bed,
Glittering like hoar-frost to my wondering eyes;
Up towards the glorious moon I raise my head,
Then lay me down--and thoughts of home arise.


The birds have all flown to their roost in the tree,
  The last cloud has just floated lazily by;
But we never tire of each other, not we,
  As we sit there together--the mountains and I.

                           FROM A BELVEDERE

With yellow leaves the hill is strown,
  A young wife gazes o'er the scene,
The sky with grey clouds overthrown,
  While autumn swoops upon the green.

See, Tartar troops mass on the plain;
  Homeward our envoy hurries on;
When will her lord come back again? . . . .
  To find her youth and beauty gone!

                           FOR HER HUSBAND

Homeward, at dusk, the clanging rookery wings its eager flight;
Then, chattering on the branches, all are pairing for the night.
Plying her busy loom, a high-born dame is sitting near,
And through the silken window-screen their voices strike her ear.
She stops, and thinks of the absent spouse she may never see again;
And late in the lonely hours of night her tears flow down like rain.

                   "THE BEST OF LIFE IS BUT . . ."

What is life after all but a dream?
  And why should such pother be made?
Better far to be tipsy, I deem,
  And doze all day long in the shade.

When I wake and look out on the lawn,
  I hear midst the flowers a bird sing;
I ask, "Is it evening or dawn?"
  The mango-bird whistles, "'Tis spring."

Overpower'd with the beautiful sight,
  Another full goblet I pour,
And would sing till the moon rises bright--
  But soon I'm as drunk as before.

                        FAREWELL BY THE RIVER

The breeze blows the willow-scent in from the dell,
  While Phyllis with bumpers would fain cheer us up;
Dear friends press around me to bid me farewell:
  Goodbye! and goodbye!--and yet just one more cup. . . .
I whisper, Thou'lt see this great stream flow away
Ere I cease to love as I love thee to-day!


At the Yellow-Crane pagoda,[2] where we
  stopped to bid adieu,
The mists and flowers of April seemed
  to wish good speed to you.
At the Emerald Isle, your lessening sail had
  vanished from my eye,
And left me with the River, rolling onward to the sky.

                            NO INSPIRATION

  The autumn breeze is blowing,
  The autumn moon is glowing,
The falling leaves collect but to disperse.
The parson-crow flies here and there
  with ever restless feet;
I think of you and wonder much
  when you and I shall meet. . . . . .
Alas to-night I cannot pour my feelings
  forth in verse!

                           GENERAL HSIEH AN

I anchor at the Newchew hill,
The autumn sky serene and still,
And watch the moon her crescent fill,
And vainly think on him by whom this shore was made renowned.[3]
Though mine is no ungraceful lay,
He cannot hear the words I say,
And I must sail at break of day. . . . . .
And all this while the maple leaves are fluttering to the ground.

                             A SNAP-SHOT

A tortoise I see on a lotus-flower resting;
A bird 'mid the reeds and the rushes is nesting;
A light skiff propelled by some boatman's fair daughter,
Whose song dies away o'er the fast-flowing water.[4]

                              A FAREWELL

Where blue hills cross the northern sky,
  Beyond the moat which girds the town,
'Twas there we stopped to say Goodbye!
  And one white sail alone dropped down.
Your heart was full of wandering thought;
  For me,--my sun had set indeed;
To wave a last adieu we sought,
  Voiced for us by each whinnying steed!

                           BOYHOOD FANCIES[5]

In days gone by the moon appeared
  to my still boyish eyes
Some bright jade plate or mirror from
  the palace of the skies.
I used to see the Old Man's legs
  and Cassias fair as gods can make them,
I saw the White Hare pounding drugs,
  and wondered who was there to take them.

Ah, how I watched the eclipsing Toad,
  and marked the ravages it made,
And longed for him who slew the suns
  and all the angels' fears allayed.[6]
Then when the days of waning came,
  and scarce a silver streak remained,
I wept to lose my favourite thus,
  and cruel grief my eyelids stained.

                           FROM THE PALACE

Cold dews of night the terrace crown,
And soak my stockings and my gown;
  I'll step behind
  The crystal blind,
And watch the autumn moon sink down.

                               THE POET

You ask what my soul does away in the sky,
I inwardly smile but I cannot reply;
Like the peach-blossom carried away by the stream,
I soar to a world of which you cannot dream.


A fair girl draws the blind aside
  And sadly sits with drooping head;
I see her burning tear-drops glide
  But know not why those tears are shed.

                             A FAVOURITE[7]

Oh the joy of youth spent in a gold-fretted hall,
In the Crape-flower Pavilion, the fairest of all,
My tresses for headdress with gay garlands girt,
Carnations arranged o'er my jacket and skirt!
Then to wander away in the soft-scented air,
And return by the side of his Majesty's chair. . . .
But the dance and the song will be o'er by and by,
And we shall dislimn like the rack in the sky.

                               IN EXILE

I drink deep draughts of Lan-ling wine
  fragrant with borage made,
The liquid amber mantling up
  in cups of costly jade.
My host insists on making me
  as drunk as any sot,
Until I'm quite oblivious
  of the exile's wretched lot.


If God does not love wine,
  Why shines the wine-star[8] in the sky?
If Earth does not love wine,
  Her flowing wine-spring[9] should be dry.
And since unharmed these Powers combine
  To love the wine-cup, so will I.

                             IN A MIRROR

My whitening hair would make a long long rope,
  Yet could not fathom all my depth of woe;
Though how it comes within a mirror's scope
  To sprinkle autumn frosts, I do not know.

                              LAST WORDS

An arbour of flowers
  and a kettle of wine:
Alas! in the bowers
  no companion is mine.

Then the moon sheds her rays
  on my goblet and me,
And my shadow betrays
  we're a party of three!

Though the moon cannot swallow
  her share of the grog,
And my shadow must follow
  wherever I jog,

Yet their friendship I'll borrow
  and gaily carouse,
And laugh away sorrow
  while spring-time allows.

See the moon--how she glances
  response to my song;
See my shadow--it dances
  so lightly along!

While sober I feel,
  you are both my good friends;
When drunken I reel,
  our companionship ends,

But we'll soon have a greeting
  without a goodbye,
At our next merry meeting
  away in the sky.

[1] An impromptu, at the age of ten.

[2] See /Ts`ui Hao/.

[3] Referring to the meeting at this spot of the General (A.D. 320-
    385) with Yan Hung, a distinguished scholar and statesman.

[4] Set to music by J. Alden Carpenter.

[5] Chinese fable says that the moon is inhabited by a huge toad which
    occasionally swallows it; hence eclipses. Also, that there are
    groves of cassia, and a hare visible to the naked eye, engaged in
    preparing the drug of immortality.

[6] The legendary archer, Hou I, who, when a number of false suns
    appeared in the sky, to the great detriment of the crops, shot at
    and destroyed them with his arrows.

[7] One of ten stanzas thrown off by the poet when tipsy and concealed
    behind a pink silk screen held up by two ladies of the seraglio.

[8] First mentioned in the 2nd Century A.D. A poet of the 8th Century

    You cannot pour the wine-star's wine,
    Nor eat the cassia of the moon.

[9] Mentioned several centuries B.C., and placed by Yen Shih-ku (died
    A.D. 645) in the province of Kansuh.

                                TU FU

                            A.D. 712-770.

  A poet whose fame rivalled--many say eclipsed--that of the great
  Li Po. He had indeed such a high opinion of his own poetry that he
  prescribed it for malarial fever. After serving without success as
  Censor, and secretary in the Board of Works, he resigned and took
  up a wandering life, finally dying from the effects of starvation
  during a flood, followed by over-indulgence in roast beef and
  white wine.

                              IN ABSENCE

White gleam the gulls across the darkling tide,
  On the green hills the red flowers seem to burn;
Alas! I see another spring has died . . .
  When will it come--the day of my return?


The setting sun shines low upon my door
  Ere dusk enwraps the river fringed with spring;
Sweet perfumes rise from gardens by the shore,
  And smoke, where crews their boats to anchor bring.
Now tittering birds are roosting in the bower,
  And flying insects fill the air around . . .
O wine, who gave to thee thy subtle power?--
  A thousand cares in one small goblet drowned!

                            TO HIS BROTHER

The evening drum has emptied every street,
One autumn goose screams on its frontier flight,
The crystal dew is glittering at my feet,
The moon sheds, as of old, her silvery light.

The brothers,--ah, where are they? Scattered each;
No home whence one might learn the other's harms.
Letters have oft miscarried: shall they reach
Now when the land rings with the clash of arms?

                             A LANDSCAPE

Two orioles sit in the green willows singing;
See egrets in flight to the blue sky are winging!
From my window the snow-peaks eternal I spy,
And an ocean-bound vessel is anchored hard by.

                              HOME JOYS

My home is girdled by a limpid stream,
  And there in summer days life's movements pause,
Save where some swallow flits from beam to beam,
  And the wild sea-gull near and nearer draws.

The goodwife rules a paper board for chess;
  The children beat a fish-hook out of wire;
My ailments call for physic more or less,
  What else should this poor frame of mine require?

                           SSU-MA HSIANG-JU[1]

'Twas here, from sickness sore oppressed,
He found relief on Wn-chn's breast;
'Twas here the vulgar tavern lay
On mountain cloud-capped night and day.
And still mid flowers and leaves I trace
Her fluttering robe, her tender face;
But ah! the phoenix calls in vain,
Such mate shall not be seen again.

                              THE HERMIT

Alone I wandered o'er the hills
  to seek the hermit's den,
While sounds of chopping rang around
  the forest's leafy glen.
I passed on ice across the brook
  which had not ceased to freeze,
As the slanting rays of afternoon
  shot sparkling through the trees.

I found he did not joy to gloat
  o'er fetid wealth by night,
But far from taint, to watch the deer
  in the golden morning light. . . .
My mind was clear at coming;
  but now I've lost my guide,
And rudderless my little bark
  is drifting with the tide![2]


Alas for the lonely plant that grows
  beside the river bed,
While the mango-bird screams loud and long
  from the tall tree overhead!
Full with the freshets of the spring,
  the torrent rushes on;
The ferry-boat swings idly, for
  the ferryman is gone.[3]


A petal falls!--the spring begins to fail,
And my heart saddens with the growing gale.
Come then, ere autumn spoils bestrew the ground,
Do not forget to pass the wine-cup round.
Kingfishers build where man once laughed elate,
And now stone dragons guard his graveyard gate!
Who follows pleasure, he alone is wise;
Why waste our life in deeds of high emprise?

                           DUM RES ET AETAS

From the court every eve to the pawnshop I pass,
  To come back from the river the drunkest of men;
As often as not I'm in debt for my glass;--
  Well, few of us live to be threescore and ten.
The butterfly flutters from flower to flower,
  The dragon-fly sips and springs lightly away,
Each creature is merry its brief little hour,
  So let us enjoy our short life while we may.

                               A PICNIC

The sun is setting as we loose the boat,
And lightly o'er the breeze-swept waters float.
We seek a corner where the bamboo grows,
And fragrant lilies offer cool repose.
Here well-iced draughts of wine the men prepare,
With lotus shredded fine by fingers fair. . . .
But now a black cloud gathering in the sky
Warns me to finish off my verse and fly.[4]

                            THE PRESSGANG

There, where at eve I sought a bed,
  A pressgang came, recruits to hunt;
Over the wall the goodman sped,
  And left his wife to bear the brunt.

Ah me! the cruel serjeant's rage!
  Ah me! how sadly she anon
Told all her story's mournful page,--
  How three sons to the war had gone;

How one had sent a line to say
  That two had been in battle slain:
He, from the fight had run away,
  But they could ne'er come back again.

She swore 'twas all the family--
  Except a grandson at the breast;
His mother too was there, but she
  Was all in rags and tatters drest.

The crone with age was troubled sore,
  But for herself she'd not think twice
To journey to the seat of war
  And help to cook the soldiers' rice.

The night wore on and stopped her talk;
  Then sobs upon my hearing fell. . . .
At dawn when I set forth to walk,
  Only the goodman cried Farewell!

[1] A poet of the 2nd Century B.C. who eloped with a beautiful young
    widow and was driven to keep a tavern until the father-in-law

[2] Hinting that he is now contemplating a hermit's life himself.

[3] A specimen of political allegory. The "lonely plant" refers to a
    virtuous statesman for whom the time is out of joint, like Lord
    Rosebery and his "lonely furrow." The "mango-bird" is a worthless
    politician in power. The "ferry-boat" is our ship of State.

[4] Set to music by Cyril Scott.

                             CH`ANG CHIEN

                           8th Century A.D.

  A poet who in 727 took the highest degree and entered into
  official life, but ultimately retired to the mountains as a


The clear dawn creeps into the convent old,
The rising sun tips its tall trees with gold,--
As, darkly, by a winding path I reach
Dhyna's hall, hidden midst fir and beech.
Around these hills sweet birds their pleasure take,
Man's heart as free from shadows as this lake;
Here worldly sounds are hushed, as by a spell,
Save for the booming of the altar bell.

[1] A state of mental abstraction, by recourse to which the Buddhist
    gradually shakes off all desire for sublunary existence. In every
    monastery there is a hall in which priests may be seen sitting for
    hours together with their eyes closed.

                           HS HSAN-P`ING

                           8th Century A.D.

  A singular being, who in 708 retired to the mountains and tried to
  live without eating, but not without drinking, as the following
  verse of which he himself was the woodman-hero will show. The
  poet, Li Po, tried to find him, but without success.

                         "BACCHE, PLENUM TUI"

In the morning my woodman will sell his load,
And he'll buy his wine on his homeward road.
You ask where the home of my pedlar lies. . . .
The home of that man is in Paradise!

                              CHIA CHIH

                            A.D. 718-772.

             Poet and statesman with a chequered career.

                            SPRING SORROWS

The willow sprays are yellow fringed,
  the grass is gaily green;
Peach-blooms in wild confusion with
  the perfumed plum are seen;
The eastern breeze sweeps past me,
  yet my sorrows never go,
And the lengthening days of spring to me
  mean lengthening days of woe.

                             WEI YING-WU

                           8th Century A.D.

  In early life a soldier; later, after a course of study he entered
  upon a civil career. His poetry has been described as "simple in
  expression, pregnant with meaning."

                          AN ABSENT HUSBAND

The oriole trills its little lay,
Orchids around in wild array,
What time the wife, immured behind,
Sees sunlight pierce the muslin blind.
Her lovely eyebrows, mothlike made,
Her parted lips, her teeth of jade. . . .
She sighs to think that peach and plum
Bloom while her hero may not come;
Since parting, time has sadly fled:
Is he indeed alive or dead?

                             SPRING JOYS

When freshets cease in early spring and the river dwindles low,
I take my staff and wander by the banks where wild flowers grow.
I watch the willow-catkins wildly whirled on every side;
I watch the falling peach-bloom lightly floating down the tide.


In autumn, when the nights are chill,
  I stroll, and croon, and think of thee.
When dropping pine-cones strew the hill,
  Say, hast thou waking dreams of me?

                              A PROMISE

Sweet flowers were blooming all around
  when your last farewell you said,
And now the opening buds
  proclaiming another year has fled.
'Tis difficult to prophesy
  beyond the present day,
And the remedy for trouble
  is to sleep it all away.
I suffer much in body,
  and I long for the old spot,
But cannot bring myself
  in pensioned idleness to rot.
You say that you will visit me,
  that you are coming soon:
'Twixt now and then how often shall
  I see the full-orbed moon?

                             HS AN-CHN

                           8th Century A.D.

  An official who took the highest degree and was on intimate terms
  with the famous Emperor Ming Huang, whose literary draughts were
  always examined by him.

                             MY NEIGHBOUR

When the Bear athwart was lying
And the night was just on dying,
And the moon was all but gone,
How my thoughts did ramble on!

Then a sound of music breaks
From a lute that some one wakes,
And I know that it is she,
The sweet maid next door to me.

And as the strains steal o'er me
Her moth-eyebrows[1] rise before me,
And I feel a gentle thrill
That her fingers must be chill.

But doors and locks between us
So effectually screen us
That I hasten from the street
And in dreamland pray to meet.

[1] Referring to the delicately curved eye-markings of the silkworm

                             TS`N TS`AN

                           8th Century A.D.

  Took the highest degree about the year 750, and rose to be a

                        IN PRAISE OF BUDDHISM

A shrine, whose eaves in far-off cloudland hide:
I mount, and with the sun stand side by side.

The air is clear; I see wide forests spread
And mist-crowned heights where Kings of old lie dead.

Scarce o'er my threshold peeps the Southern Hill;
The Wei shrinks through my window to a rill. . . .

O thou Pure Faith, had I but known thy scope,
The Golden God had long since been my hope!

                               KNG WEI

                           8th Century A.D.

  An official and poet who took the highest degree in 762, and was
  one of the Ten Men of Genius of his day. Two of his lines have
  become proverbial:

    Hireling respect with loss of fortune ends,
    and loss of influence means loss of friends.


The evening sun slants o'er the village street;
  My griefs alas! in solitude are borne;
Along the road no wayfarers I meet,--
  Naught but the autumn breeze across the corn.

                          LIU CH`ANG-CH`ING

                           8th Century A.D.

  Took the highest degree in the year 757, and rose to be a Censor
  and Judge.

                       THE WASHERWOMAN'S GRAVE[1]

The hero ne'er forgot the meal she gave,--
  My tale is of a thousand years ago,--
And every woodsman knows the time-worn grave,
  Though naught remains of dynasties save the river's ceaseless flow.

With votive flower the traveller is seen,
  The while the grief-bird[2] trills his mournful lays;
Around, the grass of spring grows wildly green
  Where footprints of the "nobleman"[3] were left in bygone days.

[1] The great General of the 2nd Century B.C., Han Hsin, was saved
    from starving by a kindly washerwoman. Later on he remembered and
    provided for his benefactress.

[2] The goatsucker or nightjar.

[3] As the washerwoman called Han Hsin, by a presentiment of his
    future greatness.

                             KA CHIA-YN

                           8th Century A.D.

  A Commissioner of Revenue about A.D. 725, who presented to the
  Emperor the stanza given below, though apparently not claiming it
  as his own composition.

                               AT DAWN

Drive the young orioles away,
Nor let them on the branches play;
Their chirping breaks my slumber through
And keeps me from my dreams of you.

                              CHANG WEI

                           8th Century A.D.

  A poet who took the highest degree in 743 and rose to be President
  of the Board of Rites.


'Tis autumn, and I watch the streams
  Which towards my dear home flow;
I span the distance in my dreams,
  And wake to deeper woe.

I cannot read to ease my care,
  But solace seek in wine,
And think of friends all gathered there--
  When will that lot be mine?

                           WANG CH`ANG-LING

                           8th Century A.D.

  A poet who took the highest degree and entered official life. He
  was killed in a rebellion.

                             AT THE WARS

See the young wife whose bosom ne'er
  has ached with cruel pain!--
In gay array she mounts the tower
  when spring comes round again.
Sudden she sees the willow-trees
  their newest green put on.
And sighs for her husband far away
  in search of glory gone.

                              A MESSAGE

Onwards tonight my storm-beat course I steer,
  At dawn these mountains will for ever fade;
Should those I leave behind enquire my cheer,
  Tell them, "an icy heart in vase of jade."

                             HUANG-FU JN

                           8th Century A.D.

  Took the highest degree about the year 750 and entered official
  life. His poetry, which he began to write at the age of ten, was
  much admired by Chang Chiu-ling.

                         SPRET INJURIA FORM

See! fair girls are flocking through corridors bright,
  With music and mirth borne along on the breeze. . . . . .
Come, tell me if she who is favoured tonight
  Has eyebrows much longer than these?

                               TSU YUNG

                           8th Century A.D.

  An official who took the highest degree about the year 730, and
  rose to be a Secretary in the Board of Rites. His poetry is much

                               A GROTTO

Deep in a darksome grove their Grotto lies,
And deep the thoughts that now within me rise.
Fronting the door the South Hill looming near,
The forest mirrored in the river clear,
The bamboo bends beneath last winter's snow,
The court-yard darkens ere the day sinks low.
I seem to pass beyond this world of clay,
And sit and listen to the spring-bird's lay.

                               TS`UI HU

                       8th or 9th Century A.D.

                 A poet of whom I can find no record.

                             A RETROSPECT

Oh this day last year what a party were we
Pink cheeks and pink peach-blossoms smiled upon me;
But alas the pink cheeks are now far far away,
Though the peach-blossoms smile as they smiled on that day.

                            LIU T`ING-CHIH

                            Circa A.D. 800.

                 A poet of whom I can find no record.

                         "YOUTH AT THE PROW"

Beneath the bridge spring freshets hurry by;
Above, there passes many a cavalier;
The sound of trampling horses fills the sky,
And mirrored forms are dancing on the mere.

Beneath green waves the mud-banks turn to jade,
The setting sun paints the blue clouds with gold;
Alas, ye willow trees, for sorrow made![1]
Alas, ye peach and plum, for grief enrolled![2]

Now is the time to seek the blooming fair,
Now is the hour to join the dance and song;
See how the lovely girls flit here and there,
Among the noble youths in lordly throng!

The pearl-sewn blind glints in the sunshine clear,
Pink cheeks make contrast with complexion blond;
Among the flowers two butterflies career,
I see two love-birds paddling in the pond.

I think of her whose glance could wreck a State,[3]
Of her whose lover came in mist and rain.[4]
Ah! beauty as of yore makes man elate,
And I to-day feel the old thrill again.

Oh, could I be the zone that clasps thy waist!--
Thy mirror, that thy beauty I might share!
Together always, by thy presence graced,
A single being, a united pair.

Oh, could we be some pure, some long-lived pine,
Unconscious of the life each spring renewed,
Each eve to watch the westering sun incline,
For ever happy in our solitude!

[1] Referring to the custom of giving a spray of willow at parting.

[2] There is a very old belief in China that the decay of a plum-tree
    is due to maggots from a peach-tree growing alongside.

[3] "One glance from her would overthrow a city, a second a State,"--
    so beautiful was she--was said by the brother of Lady Li, his
    sister and concubine to the Emperor Wu Ti, 140-86 B.C.

[4] This refers to a dream by a Prince of Ch`u of the Goddess of
    Clouds and Rain who received him on Mt. Wu in Ssuch`uan.

                             CH`AN TE-Y

                             A.D. 759-818.

  Scholar and statesman. It is recorded that he began to write verse
  at four years of age.


Last eve thou wert a bride,
  This morn thy dream is o'er. . . . .
Cast not thy rouge aside,
  He may be thine once more.

                        HAN Y (HAN WN-KUNG)

                            A.D. 768-824.

  One of China's greatest statesmen, who also occupies a foremost
  place as a writer and is popularly known as the Prince of
  Literature. For his prose works, including his attack on Buddhism,
  see /Gems of Chinese Literature: Prose/, 2nd Edition.

                          THE WOUNDED FALCON

Within a ditch beyond my wall
I saw a falcon headlong fall.
Bedaubed with mud and racked with pain,
It beat its wings to rise, in vain;
While little boys threw tiles and stones,
Eager to break the wretch's bones.
  O bird, methinks thy life of late,
Hath amply justified this fate!
Thy sole delight to kill and steal,
And then exultingly to wheel,
Now sailing in the clear blue sky,
Now on the wild gale sweeping by,
Scorning thy kind of less degree
As all unfit to mate with thee.
  But mark how fortune's wheel goes round;
A pellet lays thee on the ground,
Sore stricken at some vital part,--
And where is then thy pride of heart?
  What's this to me?--I could not bear
To see the fallen one lying there.
I begged its life, and from the brook
Water to wash its wounds I took.
Fed it with bits of fish by day.
At night from foxes kept away.
My care I knew would naught avail
For gratitude, that empty tale.
And so this bird would crouch and hide
Till want its stimulus applied;
And I, with no reward to hope,
Allowed its callousness full scope.
  Last eve the bird showed signs of rage,
With health renewed, and beat its cage.
Today it forced a passage through,
And took its leave, without adieu.
  Good luck hath saved the, not desert;
Beware, O bird, of further hurt;
Beware the archer's deadly tools!--
'Tis hard to escape the shafts of fools--
Nor e'er forget the chastening ditch
That found thee poor, and left thee rich.[1]

                          HOURS OF IDLENESS

A little lake of mine I know,
Where waving weeds and rushes grow,
And in its depths by day and night
The water-monsters swarm and fight.
Ah, how I loved to idle there! . . .
But now I can no longer bear
To pass my days in that sweet spot,
And lost in meditation rot.
A sense of duty gives me pause,
Obedient to my Master's[2] laws;
Our span of life is all too short
To waste its hours in empty sport.

                               IN CAMP

Across the steppes the bitter north winds roam,
  At dawn the Tartar moon shines cold and bright;
My soul relapses into dreams of home,
  Till the loud rappel summons to the fight.


The leaves fall fluttering from the trees,
And now, respective to the breeze,
Rustling with weird uncanny sound,
Are dancing merrily around.
On my lone hall the dusk has come
And there I sit in silence dumb.
My servant glides into the room
And with a lamp dispels the gloom.
He speaks; I give him no reply.
He proffers food; in vain. Then I
Move to escape his wondering looks
And seek a refuge in my books.
Alas, the men who charm me so
Perished a thousand years ago!
And while I muse o'er human fate
My heart grows less and less elate . . .
"Oh boy, whose eyes stare from your head,
"Put up those books and get to bed,
"And leave me to the dreary naught
"Of endless, overwhelming thought."


To stand upon the river-bank
  and snare the purple fish,
My net well cast across the stream,
  /was/ all that I could wish.
Or lie concealed and shoot the geese
  that scream and pass apace,
And pay my rent and taxes with
  the profits of the chase.
Then home to peace and happiness,
  with wife and children gay,
Though clothes be coarse and fare be hard,
  and earned from day to day.
But now I read and read, scarce knowing
  what 'tis all about,
And eager to improve my mind,
  I wear my body out.
I draw a snake and give it legs,
  to find I've wasted skill,
And my hair grows daily whiter
  as I hurry towards the hill.[3]
I sit amid the sorrows
  I have brought on my own head,
And find myself estranged from all,
  among the living dead.
I seek to drown my consciousness
  in wine, alas! in vain:
Oblivion passes quickly
  and my griefs begin again.
Old age comes on and yet withholds
  the summons to depart. . . .
So I'll take another bumper
  just to ease my aching heart.


Oh spare the busy morning fly!
  Spare the mosquitos of the night!
And if their wicked trade they ply
  Let a partition stop their flight.

Their span is brief from birth to death;
  Like you they bite their little day;
And then, with autumn's earliest breath,
  Like you too they are swept away.

[1] In experience of the vicissitudes of life.

[2] Confucius, in whose Temple the tablet of Han Y was placed in the
    year 1084.

[3] The Chinese prefer hillsides for their burying-grounds.

                                LI HO

                            A.D. 791-817.

  A poet and military official who was noted for his small waist,
  joined eyebrows, long finger-nails, and for the speed at which he
  could write. He began to compose poems at the age of seven.

                           NEAERA'S TANGLES

With flowers on the ground like embroidery spread,
At twenty, the soft glow of wine in my head,
My white courser's bit-tassels motionless gleam
While the gold-threaded willow scent sweeps o'er the stream.
Yet until /she/ has smiled all these flowers yield no ray;
When her tresses fall down, the whole landscape is gay;
My hand on her sleeve as I gaze in her eyes,
A kingfisher hairpin[1] will soon be my prize.

[1] Inlaid with kingfisher feathers, and much affected by the /demi-

                              LIU Y-HSI

                             A.D. 772-842.

  A statesman with a chequered career of banishment and success, and
  also a poet who was such a purist that he left a beautiful piece
  unfinished because it was necessary to use the word /dumplings/,
  which was not to be found in the Confucian Canon. Po Ch-i called
  him a Hero of Song.

                             SUMMER DYING

Whence comes the autumn's whistling blast,
With flocks of wild geese hurrying past? . . .
Alas, when wintry breezes burst,
The lonely traveller hears them first!

                            THE ODALISQUE

A gaily dressed damsel steps forth from her bower,
  Bewailing the fate that forbids her to roam;
In the courtyard she counts up the buds on each flower,[1]
  While a dragon-fly flutters and sits on her comb.[2]

[1] Having nothing better to do. The dragon-fly on the comb strikes a
    note of loneliness.

[2] Set to music by J. A. Carpenter.

                          MU TSUNG (LI HNG)

                            A.D. 795-824.

  Written by the twelfth Emperor of the T`ang dynasty, while still
  Heir Apparent. To the end of his life, which he brought to a
  premature close by a fatal dose of the elixir of immortality, he
  remained always a puppet in the hands of his eunuchs.

                          EUNUCH DOMINATION

Autumnal weeds sprout on my royal way[1]
Though summer blossoms still the branches sway.
My crowding thoughts I hold within my breast,
Safe from the prying eyes of eunuch quest.

[1] So long is it since the prince has cared to drive out in his

                               PO CH-I

                            A.D. 772-846.

  One of China's greatest and most voluminous poets, and a
  successful statesman, with the usual ups and downs. He was a very
  precocious child, and took the highest degree at the early age of

                      "THE GAY LICENTIOUS CROWD"

With haughty mien they fill the ways,
And gorgeous gleam their saddletrees;
I ask, who are they? Someone says,
  The Court officials these.

Scarlet-sashed ministers are there,
Red-tasselled generals in crowds;
Their minds are bent on sumptuous fare;
  Their steeds pass by like clouds.

Wine of the rarest brands they take;
Rich meats are set before their eyes,--
An orange from the Tung-t`ing lake,
  And fish from Paradise.

Serenely full, their greed assuaged,
Half-drunken, and still happier then. . . .
That year a cruel famine raged,
  /And men were eating men./

                           THE TAO T CHING

"Who know, speak not; who speak, know naught"
  Are words from Lao Tzu's lore.
If Lao Tzu knew, why did he speak
  "Five thousand words and more?"[1]

  "Elle tait du monde o les plus bells choses Ont le pire destin"

'Tis of a gentle maiden I would speak;
Her eyes like willow-leaves, and pink her cheek.
Two years ago, her glass first played its part;
One year ago, she learned the 'broidering art.
Then, at thirteen accomplishments complete,
Ready was she her destiny to meet.
Like flowers her jewelled tresses crowned her head,
A wind-borne fragrance from her person shed;
Her face, her form, alike beyond compare,
Glowing at every turn with radiance rare.
But frosts, that peach and plum untimely blight,
Touched, and she fell, her wedding day in sight.
            .   .   .   .   .
Father and mother, lay your grief aside;
She was not fashioned for a mortal's bride--
An angel, banished from her place of birth,
Condemned to spend a few short years on earth.
The loveliest things are of the frailest make;
Like clouds they vanish, and like glass they break.

                          "I CAN'T GET OUT!"

To me, from distant climes, a parrot came;
And as time passed his beak grew all aflame.
I clipped his wings, dreading a homesick mood,
And oped the cage but slightly for his food.

We grew to love him for his clever jeers;
But birds have other aims in other spheres;
And without freedom, this poor bird would seem.
Like a caged beauty in some rich hareem.

                            "VINA LIQUES"

Come bring me a bumper
  and fill it up fair,
Ere the flowers have all fallen
  and the trees are all bare;
Nor imagine that thirty
  still leaves a long run;
If you live to a hundred,
  one-third of it's done.

                           TO A LOST CRANE

With snow the inner court was white;
The sea-breeze aided in thy flight.
Hast met some sky-borne pal of thine?--
Away three nights without a sign.

Faint from the clouds thy voice was heard;
Thy shadow in the moonbeams blurred.
My home is bare! Ah, if not thou,
Who'll be the old man's comrade now?

                          SIC VOS NON VOBIS

My taste for the banquet is long ago o'er;
The guitar and the winecup delight me no more;
But my friends and my servants all have a good time. . . .
'Twould appear 'tis for them that to fortune I climb.

                              I. A BIRTH

At last, at fifty-eight I have a boy;
But sighs are mingled with my notes of joy.
We blame the single pearl the oyster grows;
Yet no one wants a quiverful of crows.

Late autumn sees the cassia's fruitful bough;
Spring winds the purple orchids stir--and now
I raise my glass and breathe my heart's desire,--
Oh, be not such a fool as was thy sire!

                             II. A DEATH

O precious pearl, O much-loved little boy,
Of me, thy graybeard sire, sole hope and joy,
A shade thou art, ere life has yet begun,
And I remain to mourn a hapless son.

My heart is cut in twain, but not with steel;
My eyes are swollen, but not with dust;--I feel
My arms are empty: God has willed it so;
A childless man I linger here below.

                      "MULTA DECEDENTES ADIMUNT"

Alas! I'm sixty-six to-day;
  How short life is doth now appear.
I grieve to see men pass away,
  But joy to think I still am here.

We cannot always boast black heads,
  Nor eyes with fiery youth alive;
Tall trees surround my friends' last beds,[2]
  My grooms will see my grandsons thrive.

I'm thin, my back with stiffness bound;
  I'm weak, the snows my locks have caught;
What cure for growing old is found,
  Save refuge in the Halls of Naught?[3]

                            "SWEET AUBURN"

Far from the ken of worldly eyes,
Nestling in trees, a village lies.
There, mid the loom's incessant sound,
Oxen and asses tramp around;
Young girls draw water from the rills;
Young men bring fuel from the hills.
Foul litigation never sears
The pure life of these mountaineers;
Their wealth is not by commerce earned;
To war their youths have never turned;
Each works out his appointed task;
Old age is left at home to bask.
In life, mere peasants they remain;
In death, to village dust again.
The youths and elders you may see
Meet in the fields with joyous glee;
One village 'tis, with but two clans;
Enough indeed for marriage banns.
Their forbears boast the selfsame stock;
They roam afield, a single flock.
Fat capons and good wine appear
On festive days throughout the year.
No cruel partings blight their lives;
From neighbours near they seek their wives.
No distance parts them when they die;
Around the hamlet's side they lie;
And thus in life and death at peace,
Their health and spirits never cease;
Old age is theirs; they live to see
Their great great grandson's progeny!
        .   .   .   .   .
Born in a cultured family,
An orphan soon, in poverty,
The Right I sought by midnight oil,
With no result save bitter toil.
The world, in name, towards goodness strives,
But what men want is "place" and wives,
Thus forging fetters for their necks,
And ending miserable wrecks.
At ten, the Books I read and learned;
At fifteen, prose and verses turned;
At twenty, baccalaureate;
At thirty, joined the Censorate.
At home, the thrall of wife and child;
At Court, although the Emperor smiled,
The statesman's toil, domestic care,
O'erwhelmed me, more than I could bear.
I think of all my journeys done,
While fifteen years away have run;
Whether by boat I steered my course,
Or ambled on a weary horse.
Hunger was oft my lot by day;
The livelong night I restless lay;
Now east, now west, no stop allowed;
Hither and thither, like a cloud.
Rebellion came, my home was lost;
My relatives, all tempest-tost,
Scattered, some north, some south, were seen,
And the Great River flowed between.
Of some, I never heard again;
Of others, in a year or twain.
From morn to eve I sat in grief;
From eve to morn, still no relief.
Scorched with these fires my heart is dead;
Sorrow has blanched my troubled head;
And now, amid this stress and strife,
My spirit longs for village life.


Soaked is her kerchief through with tears,
  yet slumber will not come;
In the deep dead of night she hears
  the song and beat of drum.[4]

Alas, although his love has gone,
  her beauty lingers yet;
Sadly she sits till early dawn,
  but never can forget.

[1] The number of characters in the /Tao T Ching/, from which line 1
    is quoted. See /Gems of Chinese Literature: Prose/, 2nd edition,
    under Lao Tzu.

[2] So long have they been buried.

[3] In Buddhism.

[4] The revels in which she once played the leading part.

                              YAN CHN

                            A.D. 779-831.

  An official who rose through a chequered career to the highest
  posts of State. His poems were great favourites with the ladies of
  the Imperial seraglio.

                           AT AN OLD PALACE

Deserted now the Imperial bowers
Saved by some few poor lonely flowers . . .
  One white-haired dame,
  An Emperor's flame,
Sits down and tells of bygone hours.

                            TAKING ORDERS

Talk not of hills and streams to him
  who once has seen the sea;
The clouds that mantle Wu's peak are
  the only clouds for me.

Though convent walls must always be
  my lot until the end,
And half my heart must be with God,
  the rest is with my friend.

                                 LI I

                         Died circa A.D. 827.

  An official and poet whose poems were at one time sung all over
  the empire.

                         A CAST-OFF FAVOURITE

The dewdrops gleam on bright spring flowers
  whose scent is borne along;
Beneath the moon the palace rings
  with sounds of lute and song.
It seems that the clepsydra[1]
  has been filled up with the sea,
To make the long long night appear
  an endless night to me!

[1] Water-clocks were known to the Chinese at a very early date, and
    are still to be found in China.

                            SSU-K`UNG SHU

                           9th Century A.D.

     Poet and official. One of the Ten Men of Genius of his day.

                               OH STAY!

We shall meet, I believe you, again;
  Yet to part!--such a beautiful night. . . .
Shall friendship and wine ask in vain
  What a head-wind would take as its right?

                            CHU CH`ING-Y

                           9th Century A.D.

  Took the highest degree in 827, but failed as an official and

                             IN THE HAREM

It was the time of flowers, the gate was closed;
Within an arbour's shade fair girls reposed.
But though their hearts were full, they nothing said,
Fearing the tell-tale parrot overhead.

                              KU KU`ANG

                      8th and 9th Centuries A.D.

  A distinguished poet of the day, who finally went into retirement as
  a hermit.

                              AT A GRAVE

An old man lays to rest a much-loved son. . . .
By day and night his tears of blood will run,
Albeit when threescore years and ten have fled,
'Tis not a long farewell that he has said.[1]

[1] The authorities of the Infernal Regions were so touched by the
    above that they allowed his son to be born again into the family.

                              CHANG CHI

                      8th and 9th Centuries A.D.

  A scholar and poet who rose to be a Secretary in the Board of
  Works. He was a vigorous opponent of Buddhism and Taoism, both of
  which he held in contempt.

                       THE CHASTE WIFE'S REPLY

Knowing, fair sir, my matrimonial thrall,
Two pearls thou sentest me, costly withal.
And I, seeing that Love thy heart possessed,
I wrapped them coolly in my silken vest.

For mine is a household of high degree,
My husband captain in the King's army;
And one with wit like thine should say,
"The troth of wives is for ever and ay."

With thy two pearls I send thee back two tears:
Tears--that we did not meet in earlier years!

                            YANG CH-YAN

                      8th and 9th Centuries A.D.

  A poet who took the highest degree about the year 790, and rose to
  be a Director of Education in 830.


The landscape which the poet loves
  is that of early May,
When budding greenness half concealed
  enwraps each willow spray.
That beautiful embroidery
  the days of summer yield,
Appeals to every bumpkin
  who may take his walks afield.[1]

                              A GLIMPSE

The buds of the peach were just blossoming out,
And swallows in couples were skimming about,
When a beautiful damsel, of ravishing mien,
Diffusing the odour of spring-time is seen.

She toys with the mirror which lies by her side,
Then blushes to note that the casement is wide;
For she knows that the traveller passing that way
Will joy in the fragrance he carries away.

[1] Set to music by Cyril Scott.

                                TU MU

                            A.D. 803-852.

  A poet and painter. He took the highest degree in 830 and rose to
  be a Secretary in the Grand Council. Often spoken of as the
  Younger Tu, to distinguish him from Tu Fu.

                             A LOST LOVE[1]

Too late, alas! . . . . I came to find
  the lovely spring had fled.
Yet must I not regret the days
  of youth that now are dead;
For though the rosy buds of spring
  the cruel winds have laid,
Behold the clustering fruit that hangs
  beneath the leafy shade![2]

                            THE OLD PLACE

A wilderness alone remains,
  all garden glories gone;
The river runs unheeded by,
  weeds grow unheeded on.
Dusk comes, the east wind blows, and birds
  pipe forth a mournful sound;
Petals, like nymphs from balconies,
  come tumbling to the ground.

                            THE LAST NIGHT

Old love would seem as thought not love to-day;
Spell-bound by thee, my laughter dies away.
The very wax sheds sympathetic tears
And gutters sadly down till dawn appears.

                            LOVERS PARTED

Across the screen the autumn moon
  stares coldly from the sky;
With silken fan I sit and flick
  the fireflies sailing by.
The night grows colder every hour,--
  it chills me to the heart
To watch the Spinning Damsel
  from the Herdboy far apart.[3]

[1] When ordered to a distant post, he said to his /fiance/, "Within
    ten years I shall be Governor. If I do not return by then, marry
    whomsoever you please." He came back after fourteen years to find
    her married and the mother of three children.

[2] Set to music by Cyril Scott.

[3] Referring to the stars {alpha} Lyrae and {alpha} {Beta}, {gamma}
    Aquil, respectively, which are separated by the Milky Way except
    on the 7th night of the 7th moon, when magpies form a bridge for
    the Damsel to pass over to her lover.

                             LI SHANG-YIN

                             A.D. 813-858.

  A scholar and poet who took the highest degree in 837, and rose to
  be an officer in the Han-lin College.

                           THE NIGHT COMES

'Tis evening, and in restless vein
At the old mount I slacken rein:
  The glorious day
  Fades fast away
And naught but twilight glooms remain!


You ask when I'm coming: alas, not just yet. . . . . .
How the rain filled the pools on that night when we met!
Ah, when shall we ever snuff candles again,
And recall the glad hours of that evening of rain?

                               SHAO YEH

                           9th Century A.D.

  A scholar of whom nothing in particular is recorded, except that
  the threat by a Magistrate of bambooing caused him to turn his
  attention to books.

                             TIME'S HAVOC

I take a glance, and shake my head;
Another look, my beauty's fled.
My suns and moons like water run;
A moment, and my day is done.

But yesterday my cheeks were red,
And now white locks hang round my head.
Red cheeks, white locks,--see how time flies--
What little space between them lies!

                               LIU CHIA

                           9th Century A.D.

                    Of whom I can find no record.

                        WITH WINE AND FLOWERS

One day while I tipsily snoozed in my bower,
  The sun disappearing had darkened the land;
My guests had all left me for many an hour;
  The cup and the wine-jar lay strewn on the sand. . . .
I could not recall I had picked me a flower,
  Yet I woke up to find I had one in my hand.

                              LIU SHANG

                           9th Century A.D.

  A painter of landscape and portraits who wrote the following lines
  in despair at the banishment of his master. The latter, in
  addition to being a very distinguished artist, could paint, as Sir
  Edwin Landseer after him, two pictures at once with two separate

                               A LAMENT

The lichen grows thick on the stones in the brook,
  And the breeze stirs the boughs of the pines by the shore. . . .
Ah, Chang Tsao alone could interpret this book,
  But now he is gone and we see him no more.

                              CHANG YEN

                           9th Century A.D.

        A scholar who took the highest degree in the year 872.

                            A SPRING FEAST

The paddy crops are waxing rich
  upon the Goose-Lake hill;
The fowls have just now gone to roost,
  the grunting pigs are still;
The mulberry casts a lengthening shade--
  the festival is o'er,
And tipsy revellers are helped
  each to his cottage door.

                        "FILL THE BUMPER FAIR"

All joys are poor to sober glance,
  True joys to wine belong--
When every step we take is dance,
  And every word is song.

                                LI SH

                           9th Century A.D.

  A poet noted for having fallen in the hands of brigands who were
  great admirers of his verse, and who bade him at once compose a
  poem for them. Hence the lines below, on seeing which the brigands
  laughed and set him free.

                            ON HIGHWAYMEN

The rainy mist sweeps gently
  o'er the village by the stream,
When from the leafy forest glades
  the brigand daggers gleam. . . .
And yet there is no need to fear
  or step from out their way,
For more than half the world consists
  of bigger rogues than they![1]

                            SPRING PASSES

Waking from mingled dreams and fumes
  of a long-drawn drunken bout,
I heard that spring was dying fast
  and forthwith hied me out.
I passed the Bamboo Garden
  where the old priest hailed me stay
And then with "All is vanity"
  we whiled the hours away.

[1] Set to music by J. A. Carpenter.

                              WANG CHIA

                     9th and 10th Centuries A.D.

  A poet and official who took the highest degree in 890 and rose to
  be a Secretary in the Board of Rites. He gave himself the
  sobriquet of Simplicitarian.

                               A STORM

No rain, and lovely flowers bloom around;
Rain falls, and battered petals strew the ground.
The bees and butterflies flit, one and all,
To seek the spring beyond my neighbour's wall.

                             CHU SHU-CHN

                           9th Century A.D.

            A poetess, and a descendant of Han Y (q.v.).

                            SUMMER BEGINS

What time the bamboo casts a deeper shade,
When birds fill up the afternoon with song,
When catkins vanish, and when pear-blooms fade,--
Then man is weary and the day is long.


The lattice-like sprays had scarce burst into bloom,
Ere the storm in its envy accomplished their doom. . . .
Ah, would that the Spring-God might evermore reign,
No dotting the sward with these petals again.

                              CHAO CHIA

                           9th Century A.D.

  An official who took the highest degree in 942, and whose poems
  gained praise from Tu Mu.

                           WHERE ARE THEY?

Alone I mount to the kiosque which stands
  on the river-bank, and sigh,
While the moonbeams dance on the tops of the waves
  where the waters touch the sky;
For the lovely scene is to last year's scene
  as like as like can be,
All but the friends, the much-loved friends,
  who gazed at the moon with me.[1]

[1] Set to music by Cyril Scott.

                             TAI SHU-LUN

                           9th Century A.D.

  Distinguished as a poet and an official. Under his rule the gaols
  were empty, as "in Alfred's golden reign."

                       NEW YEAR'S EVE AT AN INN

Here in this inn no friend is nigh;
We sit alone, my lamp and I,
  A thousand miles from love and smiles,
To see another year pass by.

Ah me, that ever I was born!
Is life worth living, thus forlorn?
  Youth, beauty, pass; and yet alas
It will be spring tomorrow morn.

                              HSIEH JUNG

                           9th Century A.D.

                        No record to be found.


At eve, along, the river bank,
  The mist-crowned wavelets lure me on
To think how all antiquity
  Has floated down the stream and gone!

                              MA TZU-JAN

                            Died A.D. 880.

  A man who possessed a wide knowledge of simples and was in great
  request as a doctor. He is said to have been taken up to the
  Taoist heaven alive.

                              UT MELIUS

In youth I went to study TAO[1]
  at its living fountain-head,
And then lay tipsy half the day
  upon a gilded bed.
"What oaf is this," the Master cried,
  "content with human lot?"
And bade me to the world get back
  and call myself a Sot.

But wherefore seek immortal life
  by means of wondrous pills?
Noise is not in the market-place,[2]
  nor quiet on the hills.
The secret of perpetual youth
  is already known to me:
Accept with philosophic calm
  whatever fate may be.

[1] Here the Way of Lao Tzu.

[2] "Who carry music in their heart
    Through dusky lane and wrangling mart."--Keble.

                            CH`IN T`AO-Y

                           9th Century A.D.

                      No record that I can find.

                            THE SEMPSTRESS

In silk and satin ne'er arrayed,
My fate to be a lone old maid;
No handsome bridegroom comes for me
Dressed in the garb of poverty.
I learned to sew with skill and grace,
Though not to paint my brows and face,
Yet I must ply my golden thread
For other maids about to wed.

                              TS`UI T`U

                           9th Century A.D.

                      No record that I can find.

                            THE TRAVELLER

The stream glides by, the flower fades,
  and neither feels a sting
That thus they pass and bear away
  the glory of the spring.
I dream myself once more at home,
  a thousand miles away;
The night-jar wakes me with its cry
  ere yet 'tis early day.
Long months have passed and no word comes
  to tell me of my own;
With each New Year my scattered locks
  have white and whiter grown,
Ah, my dear home, if once within
  thy threshold I could be,
The Five Lakes and their lovely scenes
  might all go hang for me.

                            TU CH`IU-NIANG

                           9th Century A.D.

  A poetess, who when fifteen years old became concubine to an
  official, and afterwards passed into the Palace where she was
  appointed by the Emperor in 820 to be Instructress to the Heir
  Apparent. When the Heir Apparent was deposed, she was allowed to
  return home.

                             GOLDEN SANDS

I would not have thee grudge those robes
  which gleam in rich array,
But I would have thee grudge the hours
  of youth which glide away.
Go pluck the blooming flower betimes,
  lest when thou com'st again
Alas, upon the withered stem
  no blooming flowers remain!

                             LI CH`ANG-FU

                           9th Century A.D.

                      No record that I can find.


Roused from the fumes of wine, I hear the drum,
  Midst thoughts of home, roll from the distant tower,
While through the trees faint streaks of daylight come,
  And the spring passes in a pattering shower.

The tired bird homeward wings its way at last;
  Flowers fade and die beneath wild winds oppressed.
What have my wanderings earned these past ten years? . . . .
  My wayworn horse is sick of east and west.

                               LI TUAN

                           9th Century A.D.

                      No record that I can find.

                          MUSIC HATH CHARMS

Hark to the rapturous melody!
  Her white arm o'er the lute she flings. . . .
To break her lover's reverie
  She strikes a discord on the strings.

                              LI CHIA-YU

                           9th Century A.D.

                      No record that I can find.

                            IN RETIREMENT

He envies none, the pure and proud
  ex-Minister of State;
On the Western Lake he shuts himself
  within his bamboo gate.
He needs no fan to cool his brow, for
  the south wind never lulls,
While idly his official hat lies
  staring at the gulls.

                            LIU FANG-PING

                           9th Century A.D.

                      No record that I can find.

                             THE SPINSTER

Dim twilight throws a deeper shade
  across the window-screen;
Alone within a gilded hall
  her tear-drops flow unseen.
No sound the lonely court-yard stirs;
  the spring is all but through;
Around the pear-blooms fade and fall. . . .
  and no one comes to woo.

                               CHI P`O

                           9th Century A.D.

                      No record that I can find.

                        THOUGHTS BY MOONLIGHT

Bright in the void the mirror moon[1] appears,
To the hushed music of the heavenly spheres,
Full orbed, while autumn wealth beneath her lies,
On her eternal journey through the skies.
Oh may we ever walk within the light
Nor lose the true path in the eclipse of night!
Oh let us mount where rays of glory beam
And purge our grossness in the Silver Stream![2]

[1] Referring to the polished discs of metal anciently used as mirrors
    by the Chinese.

[2] The Milky Way.

                                HAN WU

                           9th Century A.D.

  An official who took the highest degree and served under the
  Emperor Chao Tsung. He disappeared from the scene after the /coup
  d'tat/ of 904.


When my court-yard by the placid moon is lit,
  When around me leaves come dropping from the trees,
On the terrace steps, contemplative, I sit,
  The swing-ropes swaying idly in the breeze.


                           9th Century A.D.

                        VIEW FROM AN OLD TOWER

The story of a thousand years
  In one brief morning lies unrolled;
Though other voices greet the ears,
  'Tis still the moonlit tower of old.

The heroes of those thousand years?
  Alas! like running water, gone;
Yet still the fever-blast one hears,
  And still the plum-rain patters on.

'Twas here ambition marched sublime--
  An empty fame scarce marks the spot;
Away! . . . . for I will never climb
  To see flowers bloom and man forgot.

                                LI PIN

                           9th Century A.D.

  An official who took the highest degree in 853 and held various
  posts through very troubled times.


No letters to the frontier come,
  The winter softens into spring. . . . .
I tremble as I draw near home,
  And dare not ask what news you bring.

                              CH`N T`AO

                     9th and 10th Centuries A.D.

  A poet and astronomer, who lived in retirement on the hills with
  his wife, also a scholar, and grew oranges for a livelihood.

                               AN OATH

They swore the Huns should perish:
  they would die if needs they must. . . .
And now five thousand, sable-clad,
  have bit the Tartar dust.

Along the river-bank their bones
  lie scattered where they may,
But still their forms in dreams arise
  to fair ones far away.

                               WANG HAN

                          10th Century A.D.

  Noted for having taken out his right eye to replace one of his
  mother's eyes, in both of which she had gone blind. The operation
  is said to have been successful.

                            A REASON FAIR

'Tis night: the grape-juice mantles high
  in cups of gold galore;
We set to drink,--but now the bugle
  sounds to horse once more.
Oh marvel not if drunken we
  lie strewed about the plain;
How few of all who seek the fight
  shall e'er come back again!

                               CH`EN PO

                          10th Century A.D.

  A strange being who, when four or five years old, was suckled by a
  lady wearing dark clothes, whom he met when playing by the
  riverside; after which he became extraordinarily enlightened. His
  enlightenment took the form of devotion to Taoism, research for
  the elixir of life, for transmutation of metals, etc., but it did
  not help him to take the highest degree, for which he was a
  candidate in 932.


For ten long years I plodded through
  the vale of lust and strife,
Then through my dreams there flashed a ray
  of the old sweet peaceful life . . .
No scarlet-tasselled hat of state
  can vie with soft repose;
Grand mansions do not taste the joys
  that the poor man's cabin knows.

I hate the threatening clash of arms
  when fierce retainers throng,
I loathe the drunkard's revels and
  the sound of fife and song;
But I love to seek a quiet nook, and
  some old volume bring
Where I can see the wild flowers bloom
  and hear the birds in spring.

                               CHANG PI

                          11th Century A.D.

  An official who took the highest degree about 1045 and rose to be
  President of the Board of Punishments.

                        TO AN ABSENT FAIR ONE

After parting, dreams possessed me
  and I wandered you know where,
And we sat in the verandah
  and you sang the sweet old air.
Then I woke, with no one near me
  save the moon still shining on,
And lighting up dead petals
  which like you have passed and gone.

                                YANG I

                            A.D. 974-1030.

  Author and statesman, who at birth was covered with hair a foot
  long, which however disappeared within a month. He took the
  highest degree, and was employed upon the dynastic annals. For
  some years he could not speak; at length, being carried one day to
  the top of a pagoda, he burst out with the lines given below.

                       'TWIXT HEAVEN AND EARTH

Upon this tall pagoda's peak
  My hands can nigh the stars enclose;
I dare not raise my voice to speak,
  For fear of startling God's repose.

                             OU-YANG HSIU

                            A.D. 1007-1072.

  Historian, statesman, and voluminous writer on many subjects (see
  /Gems of Chinese Literature: Prose/), he came out first at the
  examination for the highest degree and rose to be President of the
  Board of War.


The balmy breath of spring must fail
  to reach that distant spot
Where early wild-flowers do not bloom
  to cheer my exile's lot.
See how the oranges still hang
  amid the clinging snow,
And shoots and buds, benumbed by cold,
  around reluctant grow!
At night your heart is with your home
  when you hear the wild goose cry,
And your sadness ever deepens
  as the smiling months go by.
Yet when you think of happy hours
  at Loyang in the past,
Grieve not that spring is late, but joy
  that spring is yours at last.

                              SHAO YUNG

                           A.D. 1011-1077.

  One of the most famous of the classical scholars of China, whose
  tablet stands in the Confucian Temple. For many years he denied
  himself a stove in winter and a fan in summer, travelling far and
  wide in China to increase his knowledge by contact with men of
  learning. Always poor, he was made comfortable towards the end of
  his life by the generosity of friends.

                  "THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU"

The heavens are still: no sound.
Where then shall God be found?
Search not in distant skies;
In man's own heart He lies.

                              A STRUGGLE

Fair flowers from above in my goblet are shining,
And add by reflection an infinite zest;
Through two generations I've lived, unrepining,
While four mighty rulers have sunk to their rest.
My body in health has done nothing to spite me,
And sweet are the moments which pass o'er my head;
But now, with this wine and these flowers to delight me,
How shall I keep sober and get home to bed?

                             SSU-MA KUANG

                            A.D. 1019-1086.

  A statesman who took the highest degree and rose to be a Minister
  of State. He resigned, however, in order to devote himself to his
  famous work, known as the "Mirror of History," which covered a
  period from the 5th Century B.C. to the 10th Century A.D.


'Tis the festival of Yellow Plums!
  the rain unceasing pours,
And croaking bullfrogs hoarsely wake
  the echoes out of doors.
I sit and wait for him in vain,
  while midnight hours go by,
And push about the chessmen
  till the lamp-wick sinks to die.

                          HUANG T`ING CHIEN

                           A.D. 1042-1102.

  An official who took the highest degree and rose to be a Grand
  Secretary. He is one of the twenty-four examples of Filial Piety
  and was ranked as one of the Four Great Scholars of the empire.

                       ANNUAL WORSHIP AT TOMBS

The peach and plum trees smile with flowers
  this famous day of spring,
And country graveyards round about
  with lamentations ring.
Thunder has startled insect life
  and roused the gnats and bees,
A gentle rain has urged the crops
  and soothed the flowers and trees. . . .
Perhaps on this side lie the bones
  of a wretch whom no one knows;
On that, the sacred ashes
  of a patriot repose.
But who across the centuries
  can hope to mark each spot
Where fool or hero, joined in death,
  beneath the brambles rot?

                             WANG AN-SHIH

                            A.D. 1021-1086.

  A famous statesman who introduced a number of reforms into the
  economic, military, and educational systems of China. The
  reactionaries were, however, too strong for him, and he lived to
  see all his policy reversed.

                            A WHITE NIGHT

The incense-stick is burnt to ash,
  the water-clock is stilled,
The midnight breeze blows sharply by
  and all around is chilled.

Yet I am kept from slumber
  by the beauty of the spring:
Sweet shapes of flowers across the blind
  the quivering moonbeams fling!

                               WHY LATE

I stayed indeed too long--
  to count the fallen flowers
And search for fragrant blooms--
  I took no note of hours[1]

[1] Too late I stayed; forgive the crime,
      Unheeded flew the hours;
    How noiseless falls the foot of time
      That only treads on flowers!
                                W. R. Spencer.

                              CH`ENG HAO

                            A.D. 1032-1085.

  One of two famous brothers, both of whom took the highest degree
  and whose tablets were admitted in 1241, as representing orthodox
  scholars, into the Confucian Temple.


I wander north, I wander south,
  I rest me where I please. . . .
See how the river-banks are nipped
  beneath the autumn breeze!
Yet what care I if autumn blasts
  the river-banks lay bare?
The loss of hue to river-banks
  is the river-banks' affair.[1]

                            SPRING FANCIES

When clouds are thin, and the wind is light,
  about the noontide hour,
I cross the stream, through willow paths
  with all around in flower.
The world knows not my inmost thoughts
  which make me seem a fool;
I'm taken for a truant boy
  escaped from tedious school.

[1] Set to music by Cyril Scott.

                           KUO HSIANG-CHNG

                           11th Century A.D.

  A poet whose mother, before his birth, had dreamed of the great Li
  Po (q.v.), and of whom, for his poetical skill, he was afterwards
  declared to be a re-incarnation.

                         "SPLENDIDIOR VITRO"

Men come and go, but thou art there;
  Men hurry by, there thou art still;
No fish nor thirsty bird to break
  The image of yon verdant hill.

                              TS`AI CH`O

                           11th Century A.D.

  A statesman who rose to high rank but was banished in 1087. His
  son, P`i-pa, who accompanied him, and whose name had become
  familiar to a favourite parrot, soon died; upon which the father
  seized a pen and wrote the lines given below.

                              A DEAD BOY

The parrot calls him as of yore,
Though P`i-pa's earthly days are o'er.
Together to this distant shore
We crossed--but shall return no more.


Paper screen, bamboo couch, and a stone for my pillow;--
  I doze, and the book from my dreamy grasp slips;
Then the note of a fisherman's flute o'er the billow
  Awakes me from sleep with a smile on my lips.

                        SU SHIH (SU TUNG-P`O)

  Statesman who suffered banishment more than once. In 1057 he took
  the highest degree, coming out second on the list. As a
  /littrateur/ he is in the very first rank. See /Gems of Chinese
  Literature: Prose/.

                            SPRING NIGHTS

One half-hour of a night in spring
  is worth a thousand taels,
When the clear sweet scent of flowers is felt
  and the moon her lustre pales;
When mellowed sounds of song and flute
  are borne along the breeze,
And through the stilly scene the swing
  sounds swishing from the trees.

                           WHIGS AND TORIES

Thickly o'er the jasper terrace
  flower-shadows play;
In vain I call my garden boy
  to sweep them all away.
They vanish when the sun sets
  in the west, but very soon
They spring to giddy life again
  beneath the rising moon![1]

[1] The "flower-shadows" stand for evil politicians who held their own
    against the brooms of virtuous statesmen, but disappeared at the
    death of a misguided Emperor, to re-appear at the death of his

                            HUNG CHEH-FAN

                     11th and 12th Centuries A.D.

  Distinguished as a poet and a calligraphist. He finally took
  orders as a Buddhist priest, and produced several well-known


Two green silk ropes, with painted stand,
  from heights aerial swing,
And there outside the house a maid
  disports herself in spring.
Along the ground her blood-red skirts
  all swiftly swishing fly,
As though to bear her off to be
  an angel in the sky.

Strewed thick with fluttering almond-blooms
  the painted stand is seen;
The embroidered ropes flit to and for
  amid the willow green.
Then when she stops and out she springs
  to stand with downcast eyes,
You think she /is/ some angel
  just now banished from the skies.

[1] Chinese girls swing standing up on the seat.

                              TAI FU-KU

                     12th and 13th Centuries A.D.

  A poet, without further occupation, who spent twenty years in
  travelling about to places of interest.


When ducklings seek the puddles, mostly dry,
In the hot plum-time, with its changeful sky,
'Tis then in shady arbour we carouse,
And strip the golden loquat from the boughs.

                               YEH SHIH

                            A.D. 1150-1223.

  A statesman who came out second on the list for the highest
  degree, and in 1206 began a series of important military
  operations against the Golden Tartars.

                            AT A PARK GATE

'Tis closed!--lest trampling footsteps
  mar the glory of the green.
Time after time we knock and knock;
  no janitor is seen.
Yet bolts and bars can't quite shut in the
  spring-time's beauteous pall;
A pink-flowered almond-spray peeps out
  athwart the envious wall!

                            WANG FENG-YAN

                           12th Century A.D.

                      No record that I can find.

                            THE THIRD MOON

In May flowers fade, and others come
  to bloom among the leaves,
While all day long the nesting swallow
  flits around the eaves.
The night-jar cried half through the night
  until the blood flows fast,
Ah vainly hoping to recall the
  spring that now is past!

                                LU YU

                           A.D. 1125-1209.

  A statesman with a varied career, and a skilled /littrateur/. He
  was employed upon the dynastic history, and his poetry was much
  admired. He spoke of himself as "Old /Laisser-Aller/."

                               TO WINE

Soft as the spring-time, as the autumn sweet,
  One stoup of thee, at night, all joys will yield;
Demons of care fall harmless at my feet,
  Therefore I say to you, Be thou my spear and shield!

                             LIU CHI-SUN

                           Circa A.D. 1200.

  A poor scholar, who left behind him at death a library of 30,000
  volumes and a collection of many hundred pictures. This is his
  only known poem; it was picked up and carried off by a visitor to
  his mountain refuge, who failed to find him at home.

                               A HERMIT

Ye swallows twittering among the beams,
Why thus intrusive break upon my dreams?
Dreams vague with fancies that I cannot plain. . . . . .
With staff and flask I seek the hills again.

                             KAO CH-NIEN

                          12th Century A.D.

                      No record that I can find.

                          WORSHIP, AND AFTER[1]

The northern and the southern hills
  are one large burying-ground,
And all is life and bustle there
  when the sacred day comes round.
Burnt paper /cash/, like butterflies,
  fly fluttering far and wide,
While mourners' robes with tears of blood
  a crimson hue are dyed.
The sun sets, and the red fox crouches
  down beside the tomb;
Night comes, and youths and maidens laugh
  where lamps light up the gloom.
Let him, whose fortune brings him wine,
  get tipsy while he may;
For no man, when the long night comes,
  can take one drop away!

[1] Referring to the annual spring worship at the tombs of ancestors.

                              YANG CHIEN

                     12th and 13th Centuries A.D.

  A poet and official who gained such a reputation as a Magistrate
  that the people called him Father Yang.

                            TOO LATE AGAIN

This year I swore I would enjoy the sweets of spring enow:
Alas! spring breezes died away ere yet I quite knew how.
'Tis hard to note the beauties of the landscape slipping by,
When sorrow and when fell disease, alternate, dim the eye.

                              TS`AO PIN

                          13th Century A.D.

  A distinguished scholar and statesman, who rose to high office and
  was known as one of the Four Censors of the Chia Hsi period, A.D.

                           A SPRING EVENING

Now no one takes heed of the flowers that have dropped,
  And dark is the landscape's predominant note;
The oriole's song in the forest has stopped,
  And the only sound heard is the frog in the moat.

                            HSIEH FANG-T

                           A.D. 1226-1289.

  An official who took the highest degree about 1253. He got into
  trouble when holding the post of Examiner by setting an unpopular
  theme and was degraded. He then became an itinerant fortune-
  teller, and finally starved himself to death.

                             AT HIS CLUB

Long past midnight the wife hears
  the goatsucker's cry,
And rises to see that the
  silkworms are fed;
Alas! there's the moon shining
  low in the sky,
But her husband has not yet
  come back to his bed.

                                YEH LI

                           A.D. 1241-1292.

  A statesman who played an important part in the later years of
  transition from Chinese to Mongol rule.

                             AT HIS BOOKS

Shadows of pairing sparrows cross his book,
  Of poplar catkins, dropping overhead . . .
The weary student from his window-nook
  Looks up to find that spring has long since fled.

                               LIU CHI

                           A.D. 1311-1375.

  A poet and official who helped the first Emperor of the Ming
  dynasty to expel the Mongols, but later on fell into disfavour and
  was poisoned.

                       AT A MOUNTAIN MONASTERY

I mounted when the cock had just begun,
And reached the convent ere the bells were done.
A gentle zephyr whispered o'er the lawn;
Behind the wood the moon gave way to dawn.
And in this pure sweet solitude I lay,
Stretching my limbs out to await the day,
No sound along the willow pathway dim
Save the soft echo of the bonzes' hymn.

                             OMNES EODEM

A centenarian 'mongst men
Is rare; and if one comes, what then?
The mightiest heroes of the past
Upon the hillside sleep at last.

                              HSIEH CHIN

                           A.D. 1369-1415.

  A scholar and statesman who was on very intimate terms with the
  first two Emperors of the Ming dynasty, and under whose presidency
  the enormous encyclopdia, mostly destroyed during the Boxer
  trouble, was ultimately produced. Falling into disfavour, he was
  thrown into prison and four years later was made drunk and was
  buried under a heap of snow.

                      AN EMPEROR IN A SNOWSTORM

The snowflakes fall thickly on every side,
  And unstained by the mud they lie lightly about.
God knows that his Majesty's gone for a ride,
  So a carpet of flowers[1] for his steed is laid out.

                            A SNOW PRIEST

This priest is not of woman born,
  But straight from heaven descended;
And back he'll go tomorrow morn,
  When his short stay is ended.


In vain hands bent on sacrifice
  or clasped in prayer we see;
The ways of God are not exactly
  what those ways should be.
The swindler and the ruffian
  lead pleasant lives enough,
While judgments overtake the good
  and many a sharp rebuff.
The swaggering bully stalks along
  as blithely as you please,
While those who never miss their prayers
  are martyrs to disease.
And if great God Almighty fails
  to keep the balance true,
What can we hope that paltry mortal
  magistrates will do?

[1] "Flowers" takes the place of "flakes" in Chinese.

                            LIN HUNG-CHUNG

                           15th Century A.D.

  A poet who declined office on the ground that he could not leave
  his aged mother. He was killed by rebels because he refused to
  kneel to them.

                           A MOUNTAIN BROOK

One draught for my poetic soul I take,
Unconscious river, ere thou glid'st away
To serve the orgies of the Western Lake,
And be no more the pure stream of to-day.

                            CHAO TS`AI-CHI

                           15th Century A.D.

                         A courtesan-poetess.

                             TO HER LOVER

The tide in the river beginning to rise,
Near the sad hour of parting, brings tears to our eyes;
Alas that these furlongs of willow-strings gay
Cannot hold fast the boat that will soon be away!


                          15th Century A.D.

Do not forget your cotton days
  When robed in cloth of gold;
Among new friends who crowd around,
  Do not forget the old!


                          15th Century A.D.

                           A BROKEN TRYST

"Meet me," said I, "at the rise of the moon."
  The moon duly rose, but in vain did I wait;
For I live on the plain, where the moon rises soon,
  And he among hills, where the moon rises late.

                      SHIH TSUN (CHU HOU-TSUNG)

                           A.D. 1507-1566.

  Eleventh Emperor of the Ming dynasty, and a worthless ruler. His
  north-west frontiers were raided, the Japanese harried the coast
  provinces, and a Portuguese envoy, who had reached Peking in 1520,
  was sent back to Canton where he died in prison. Meanwhile, his
  Majesty was engaged in searching for an elixir of life.

                            TO GENERAL MAO[1]

Southward, in all the panoply
  of cruel away arrayed,
See, Our heroic general points
  and waves his glittering blade!
Across the hills and streams
  the lizard-drums[2] terrific roll,
While glint of myriad banners
  flashes high from pole to pole. . . .
Go, scion of the Unicorn,
  and prove thy heavenly birth,
And crush to all eternity
  these insects of the earth;
And when thou com'st, a conqueror,
  from those wild barbarian lands,
We will unhitch thy war-cloak
  with Our own Imperial hands!

[1] He crushed a serious revolt in Annam, 1539-1541.

[2] Covered with lizard-skin.

                             CHAO LI-HUA

                          16th Century A.D.

                         A courtesan-poetess.

                          TO AN ABSENT LOVER

Your notes on paper rare to see,
  Two flying joy-birds bear;
Be like the birds and fly to me,
  Not like the paper--rare.[1]

[1] Chinese note-paper is prettily covered with pictures of various
    design, mostly symbolical.

                            SSU-K`UNG SHAN

                        (?) 16th Century A.D.

  The following lines are from the /Chih yeh lu/, published in A.D.
  1602 by Ch`u Ju-chi.

                         TO A BUDDHIST PRIEST

Seeing the Way,[1] a follower I would be;
How can I follow what I do not see?
The Way itself is unsubstantial air;
How can I follow that which is not there?
Those who to walk along the Way aspire,
Are seeking water-bubbles in a fire.
'Tis just like "Punch and Judy"[2] and its fun;
If the strings break, the little play is done.

[1] Here, of course, the Buddhist Way, Mrga; not to be confused with
    the Way (/Tao/) either of Lao Tzu or of Confucius.

[2] A favourite diversion of the Chinese for many centuries past.

                               HS WEI

                          16th Century A.D.

  A very brilliant young man who had an unfortunate career. His
  patron being thrown into prison, he went mad and attempted to
  commit suicide, and killed his second wife. He was distinguished
  as a calligraphist, a writer of prose and verse, and as an artist.

                    ON A WINE-JAR IN AN OLD GRAVE

My thoughts are with the owner, far away,
Who had a goblet, but who could not quaff;
A hare-shaped[1] piece of common yellow clay,
Sole friend for a millennium and a half.

But here beside him rests a legal deed[2]
For ground where now in winding-sheet he lies;
'Tis clear that long ere death his soul had freed
He had no lack of fortune's choice supplies--

Vessels of jade, all exquisitely wrought,
And silken robes with these upon a par--
By what spell were his dainty fingers taught
To raise to lips refined this earthen jar?

'Twixt quick and dead a grave-mound--a mere thing;
Yet joy and silence seem so far apart.
A living rat's more worth than a dead king:
A fact we'll all do well to lay to heart.

[1] The hare is an auspicious animal. There is one in the moon,
    pounding drugs for the elixir of immortality.

[2] The amount mentioned is 4,000,000 /cash/, whatever that might mean
    at such a remote date.

                            P`U SUNG-LING

                           Born A.D. 1622.

  A scholar who failed disastrously at the public examinations, but
  who ultimately produced one of the greatest masterpieces in style
  to be found in the Chinese language. See /Gems of Chinese
  Literature: Prose/.

                             INWARD LIGHT

With wine and flowers we chase the hours,
  In one eternal spring;
No moon, no light, to cheer the night,
  Thyself that ray must bring.

                            FANG SHU-SHAO

                           Died A.D. 1642.

  A poet and calligraphist, who led a very harum-scarum life until
  1642, when he had "something wrong with his teeth" (probably
  /pyorrhoea/). He got into his coffin, wrote the valedictory below,
  and died.

                            TO HIS COFFIN

An eternal home awaits me,
  shall I hesitate to go?
Or struggle for a few more hours
  of fleeting life below?
A home, wherein the clash of arms
  I can never hear again!
And shall I strive to linger
  in this thorny world of pain?
The breeze will soon blow cool o'er me,
  and the bright moon shine o'erhead
When blended with the gems of earth
  I lie in my last bed.
My pen and ink shall go with me
  inside my funereal hearse,
So that if I've leisure "over there"
  I may soothe my soul with verse.


                          18th Century A.D.

                             AN AGNOSTIC

You ask me why I greet the priest
  But not his God;
The God sits mute, the man at least
  Returns my nod.

                            CHANG WN-T`AO

                           18th Century A.D.

  A poetess who wrote the following lines after reading the work on
  the duties of women by Pan Chao, the female historian of the 1st
  Century A.D.

                           ADVICE TO GIRLS

Trust not to spring clouds, trust not to flowers:
  The butterfly is caught;
Oh snatch no passing joy in hours
  Of pleasure wrongly sought!
A mien severe and eyes that freeze
  Become the future bride;
No whispering underneath the trees
  Ere yet the knot be tied.
'Tis heaven on earth when women wed
  Leans on her husband's arm;
Beauty, like flowers, is quickly shed:
  Oh envy not its charm!


                          18th Century A.D.

                             INTEGER VIT

Riches and rank--a morning dream in spring;
Fame--but an unsubstantial cloud above;
Thy very body is not thine for ay;
  Hate is the end of love.

Fix not a golden collar on thy neck;
Be not with chain of jade in service bound;
Pure heart and few desires: earth's dust shake off--
  And happiness is found.

                               YAN MEI

                           A.D. 1715-1797.

  Poet, essayist, letter-writer, and for a few years an official.
  Among other works, he produced a famous cookery-book, which is as
  well known in China as /La Physiologie du Got/ in Europe. See
  /Gems of Chinese Literature: Prose/.

                              A SCOFFER

I've ever thought it passing odd
How all men reverence some God,
And wear their lives out for his sake
And bow their heads until they ache.
'Tis clear to me the Gods are made
Of the same stuff as wind or shade . . .
Ah, if they came to every caller,
I'd be the very loudest bawler!

                             LU CHU-CH`I

                          18th Century A.D.

  A poet who, when found lying drunk in the road, made the following
  reply to the Prefect; adding that his condition was his own
  business and not the Prefect's.

                             AN IMPROMPTU

Though the torrent be swift, it can ne'er carry off
  the moonbeam that lights up its bed;
Though the mountain be high, yet it cannot arrest
  the fast-flying cloud overhead.

                       THE EMPEROR CH`IEN LUNG

                           A.D. 1710-1799.

  One of the two great literary rulers of the Manchu dynasty, for
  whose achievements, see /Gems of Chinese Literature: Prose/. He
  was an ardent writer of verse, and produced about 34,000 short
  poems, after Wordsworth in his lowliest moods. In 1793 he received
  Lord Macartney.

                     BEST OF ALL THINGS IS WATER

Searching among the mountain streams,
  against this spring we ran;
Pure as a saint and placid too,
  as any Perfect Man.[1]
The Hangchow hyson,[2] world renowned,
  is good as good can be. . . .
We gather pine-sticks for a fire
  and brew a cup of tea.

                               UP NORTH

The season was a month behind
  in this land of northern breeze,
When first I heard the harsh cicad
  shrieking through the trees.
I looked but could not mark its form
  amid the foliage fair;
Naught but a flash of shadow which
  went flitting here and there.

[1] The Confucian ideal.

[2] A kind of green tea. The name is a corruption of two Chinese words
    meaning "glorious spring"--the season, not the fountain.

                                CHAO I

                           A.D. 1727-1814.

  A poet, historian, and official, who came out first at the
  examination for the second degree but was placed second by the
  Emperor in order to encourage candidates from another province. In
  1810 he attended his Jubilee (60 year) banquet as graduate.

                      THE DIVINEST OF ALL THINGS

Man is indeed of heavenly birth,
Though seemingly earthy of the earth;
The sky is but a denser pall
Of the thin air that covers all.
Just as this air, so is that sky;
Why call this low, and call that high?

The dewdrop sparkles in the cup--
Note how the eager flowers spring up;
Confine and crib them in a room,
They fade and find an early doom.
So 'tis that at our very feet
The earth and the empyrean meet.

The babe at birth points heavenward too,
Enveloped by the eternal blue;
As fishes in the water bide,
So heaven surrounds on every side;
Yet men sin on, because they say
Great God in heaven is far away.

                              FANG WEI-I

                          19th Century A.D.

  A young and disconsolate widow who, after the death of her young
  husband, shaved her head and became a Buddhist nun.


'Tis common talk how partings sadden life:
  There are no partings for us after death.
But let that pass; I, now no more a wife,
  Will face Fate's issues to my latest breath.[1]

The north wind whistles through the mulberry-grove,
  Daily and nightly making moan for me;
I look up to the shifting sky above,
  No little prattler smiling on my knee.

Life's sweetest boon is after all to die. . . .
  My weeping parents still are loth to yield;
Yet east and west the callow fledglings fly,
  And autumn's herbage wanders far afield.

What will life bring to me an I should stay?
  What will death bring to me an I should go?
These thoughts surge through me in the light of day,
  And make me conscious that at last I know.

[1] Rejecting the alternative of suicide, regarded formerly as an
    honourable exit for a youthful widow.

                              CH`IU CHIN

                            Died A.D. 1907.

  A young married woman who in 1904 left her husband, and after a
  period of study in Japan, devoted herself to forwarding the
  revolutionary movement against the Manchu dynasty. She was
  arrested and executed, leaving behind her a small volume of verse
  and the honorific title "Woman-knight of the Mirror Lake."


When through my casement dawn appears
  And early breezes stroke my cheek,
'Mid endless crowding hopes and fears
  I bow my head, I cannot speak.
I long to mount the wind and fly--
  The far horizon seems too near;
But why seek God in distant sky?
  Knock, and His doors are opened here!

                            HSIEH WEI-NUNG

                             Present Day.

  From Nanking, at the close of the T`ai-p`ing rebellion, all the
  golden glories of the Southern Dynasties--4th, 5th, and 6th
  Centuries A.D.--had been completely wiped out. When Tsng Kuo-fan
  had recovered the city (in 1864), he set to work to replant
  flowers and trees. Then once more it became possible to pass
  through a splendour of peach-blossoms, and to enjoy the beauty of
  the river, with its bevies of pink-cheeked damsels as of old, and
  the music of flute and guitar. /Reprinted by permission from The
  Times of 4 September, 1918./

                     RETURN OF THE /GENIUS LOCI/

Towards the White Gate I am bent,
Led by love of flowers and scent. . . .
Now I longer at the door
Where we quaffed our wine of yore. . . .
Now I see old scenes arise,
Taking shape before my eyes,
And with brush I limn the blaze
Of gay flowers amid the haze. . . .
Now a friend or two I bring,
And we're off to seek the spring. . . .
Once again I cross the ridge
Of the famous Red Rail bridge;
But alack-a-day, alas!
All the willows which we pass,
Lately set, have sprung to life
Since those days of bloody strife. . . .
Now we haste to get afloat,
Tea and wine aboard the boat. . . .
Then we hear a grumbler say
"But the elves are all away!"
Little knowing spirits all
Are responsive to the call
Of a sympathetic heart,
And incontinently start
And their hidden forms arouse
From the music-making boughs
Where their lurking-place they made
Safe beneath some leaf's sweet shade.

                             LIU PO-TUAN

                             Present Day.

                          ODE TO SHAKESPEARE

Hearken! low wails through heaven's vault resound,
And angels' tears drip, pearl-like, to the ground[1] . . . .
That day the influence of spring was stilled,[2]
And even now by thee mankind is thrilled.[3]

Master of language, eager to reform,
Showing the heart surcharged with bitter storm,--
Three hundred years have passed 'twixt then and now,
Yet all the world looks to that mountain's brow!

[1] Supposed to change into pearls or jade as they fall.

[2] Nature's operations were checked.

[3] This line is not translation; it is a guess at the meaning which
    is concealed in a charade-like interpretation of a famous
    inscription on a tombstone.



The cup's in the hand,
  seize the hour ere 'tis fled;
How seldom in life
  is the moon overhead!

                            HIGH THINKING

Do not ask upon what
  is the anchorite fed--
A stream past his window,
  a book by his bed.


You may set with all care,
  but the flow'ret will fade,
While the chance-planted willow-twig
  grows into shade.


Day by day we grow old
  and have nothing to show;
Year by year we behold
  the new spring coming on;
In the winecup is found
  our chief joy here below;
Why grieve over flowers
  too soon faded and gone?

                               A LAMENT

O ruthless Fate!
  O cruel boon!
To meet so late
  And part so soon.

                              A LULLABY

The poplars are whispering, la-la-la,
And baby must sleep with his ma-ma-ma.
Bye-bye, baby, go sleep I say;
If Bogy comes near us, I'll drive him away.


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