Seeing Off Can Liao


 
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Fishing on the Huanghe Gudao, Old Yellow River in Xuzhou

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Seeing Off Can Liao
        Su Shi 1036-1101

A monk studies suffering and emptiness
The myriad worries are cold ashes in his mind.
Blowing on a sword tip yields but a soft hum,
Burned millet puts forth no new grain.
How could you chase after our kind of man
Stiving to produce brilliantly patterned writing?
Your recent poems are like dhips of jade
Their phrases fresh and surprising.
Tuizhi said that draft-script calligraphy
Is capable of reflecting any worldly affair.
Worry, sadness and all other disquietudes
May be lodged in the darting of the brush.
But he wondered about the Buddhist monk
Who looks upon his body as an empty well.
Meekly, he gives himself to the placid and the plain,
Who will elicit boldness and firy from him?
When I consider this I see it is incorrect.
True ingenuity is not a matter of delusion.
If you want your poetic phrases to be marvelous
Do not be averse to emptiness and quietude.
With quietude you comprehend all movement,
With emptiness you take in ten thousand scenes.
You observe the world as you go among men,
You examine yourself resting on a cloudy peak.
The salty and sour mix with ordinary tastes,
Between them there is a perfect flavor that endures.
Poetry and Buddhism are not incompatible,
I submit this view for your consideration.
 
Sòng Cān Liáo Shī
Sū Shì 1036-1101

Shàngrén xué kǔ kōng,
Bǎi niàn yǐ huī lěng.
Jiàn tóu wéiyī chuī,
Jiāo gǔ wú xīnyǐng.
Húwēi zhú wúbèi,
Wénzì zhēng wèi bǐng.
Xīn shī rú yùxiè,
Chū yǔ biàn qīng jǐng.
Tuì zhī lùn cǎoshū,
Wànshì wèicháng píng.
Yōuchóu bù píngqì,
Yī yù bǐ suǒ chěng.
Pō guài Fútúrén,
Shì shēn rú qiūjǐng.
tuírán jì dànbó,
Shuí yǔ fā háo měng.
Xì sī nǎi bùrán,
Zhēn qiǎo fēi huàngyǐng.
Yù lìng shī yǔ miào,
Wúyàn kōng qiě jìng.
Jìng gù liǎo qún dòng,
Kōng gù nà wàn jìng.
Yuèshì zǒurén jiān,
Guān shēn wòyún lǐng.
Xiánsuān zá zhòng hǎo,
Zhōng yǒu zhì wèi shuǐ.
Shī fǎ bù xiāng fáng,
Cǐ yǔ gèng dāng qǐng.
 
Translator: Ron Egan 艾朗諾

Notes:
This translation by Ron Egan is from How To Read Chinese Poetry, A Guided Anthology Edited by Zong-Qi Cai, published by Columbia University Press, 2007, the best book I have seen on the subject of translating and understanding Chinese poetry.

See another translation of this poem by Dongbo, under the title Seeing Off Master Can Liao.

In Ron Egan's book Wprd, Image, and Deed In The Life Of Su Shi is an earlier alternate translation of a portion of this poem:

Tuizhi (Han Yu) said that cursive script
May reflect any human concern.
All sorrows and feelings if disquiet
May be lodged in the darting of the brush.
But he wondered about the Buddhist
Who looks upon his body as an abandoned well.
Timidly he avails himself of the placid and the plain;
Who will elicit boldness and fury from him?
When I consider this, I see that it is not right;
True skill is not a matter of illusion.
If you want to make your poems marvelous.
You need not shun emptiness and quietude.
With quietude you comprehend the myraid movements,
With emptiness you admit the ten thousand scenes.
You observe the world as you go among men
You examine yourself when resting on cloudy peaks.
What the crowd longs for is the salty and the sour;
The true and lasting flavor lies in between.
Buddhism is not incompatible with poetry;
I submit this view to complement the other.

From this you can see how translators almost always read the poem differently each time they return to it. There is no such thing as a perfect translation, only, sometimes, a perfect poem in the translator's language!

 
 
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