A Little Dab of Little Du


In our last issue of the Tang Spirit newsletter (several months ago already)  we ventured to translate the Heart Sutra.  At first we worried some of our readers might take offense at our clumsy secular rendition of a sacred text.  But quite the contrary, it seems to have been one of our more popular efforts to date, drawing more email response than we customarily receive.  We truly appreciate hearing from our readers since it's the only recompense we get.  And we were particularly pleased to receive an email from Phil, a new subscriber in Asia and student of sanskrit, who shared with us a companion text to the Heart Sutra, of slightly more modern origin.

As Phil wrote to us:  In the spirit of lightness (for I know the Buddha had a tremendous sence of humor), I offer you my conclusion to the Starbucks Suttra:

Latte, latte,
Double soy latte,
Bodhi
Swaha

Mettaa



text break



With this issue we return to our our more usual fare with new translations of three poems by Du Mu, a poet of the late Tang period, whose work I have been enjoying and translating over the last few months.  Sometimes known as Little Du (to distinguish him from his immediate predecessor Du Fu), many of his poems have a somber or metaphysical cast,  even though his style remains very down to earth and accessible.

For starters I’ve chosen 3 of Du Mu’s poems with an autumnal theme – ranging from the literal to more metaphoric – which I hope will provide you a good sense of the range of his verse.


Autumn Evening on the River


A solitary boat
On the horizon’s edge
Charting a distant course 
To the vanishing point itself

Heartsick and poor
On this endless journey
The spirit dreams of home
And its many kindred

The cicadas chant
From trees brushed
With vivid color and the crows
Clamor in the sands
Of the setting sun

Without a plan
In his head
A man takes his chances
In the splendor of passing years




秋晚江上遣怀


孤舟天际外
去路望中赊

贫病远行客
梦魂多在家

蝉吟秋色树
鸦噪夕阳沙

不拟彻双鬓
他方掷岁华







I've taken some liberty in translating the title of this next poem - literally Taking Leave of Master Shen.  Instead, I've used the first line from the poem, which I think lends it a more Shakespearean flavor.






What's Done is Done


What’s done is done
A ragged dream
What’s still to come
Lies on the road ahead
Winding into autumn

Old friends unseen
But remembered
Time brings us
To a sacred place
A tower facing east





别沈处士



旧事参差梦

新程逦迤秋

故人如见忆

时到寺东楼







An Accidental Theme


The Way through
The human state of things
May be transmitted by verse

When we’re young
We tread light and easy
But that changes with
The coming years

Today finds us embarking
On a long ocean voyage
Raised on the waves
And buoyant with hope

Not yet arrived
At the Island of Peng Lai
Still short of those Immortal
Shores it seems






偶题



道在人间或可传

小还轻变已多年

今来海上升高望

不到蓬莱不是仙



One final textual note - the reference to Peng Lai in the final stanza of this last poem - this is an Island located not far off the shore of Mainland China where Immortal spirits resided.  Its exact location remains uncertain although it is believed to be not far from present day Kinmen and Matsu.

 Kinmen




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I

Thanks and best regards, in the Tang Spirit --

Joe Lamport (formerly known as Lan Hua)
October 2013

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