Not Sleeping

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Dawn over the Donglinsi, viewed from top of pagoda

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Not Sleeping
        Qiji 864-937

Long night, no inclination to sleep,
empty hall, opening and shutting doors:
deliberately I move out of the glow of the lamp,
wait where I'll catch the moonlight when it comes.
Falling leaves suspended, snagged in a bird's nest,
streams of fireflies circling round me...
at dawn I dust off the sutra stand,
sandalwood ash from one stick of incense.
Bù Shuì
Qíjǐ 864-937

Yǒngyè bù yù shuì,
Xū táng bì fù kāi.
Què lí dēngyǐng qù,
Dāidé yuè guāng lái.
Luò yè féng cháo zhù,
Fēi yíng zhí wǒ huí.
Tiānmíng fú jīng àn,
Yī zhù báitán huī.
Translator: Dongbo 東波

It is fun to learn to translate and write poetry from the masters, and Burton Watson is the master translator of Chinese and Japanese poetry. Here is my variation on Qiji's and Burton's work:

Qiji 864-937
Endless night, unable to sleep,
Empty hall, shut again open.
Then leave as lamplight fades,
Linger await moonglow's appearance.
Falling leaves perch on bird's nest,
Darting fireflies coil around me.
At dawn I dust white ash,
From sandalwood incense stand.

Now, you can say that this translation is not accurate, but I say bullshit, there is no such thing as an accurate translation. (You can also say it is not 'good'poetry, and I might agree with you!) But every translation is removed from the original and is a new creation. Only the poem in the original language is the true poem, but even that original poem is just poised to be reinterpreted by each new reader. And each reader reads a different poem.

So enjoy the process! Here you have all the tools to try your own translation; the origional, the pinyin version, the master's work, a duffer's try and your word processor. I also recommend you find good dictionaries and a copy of J. I Rodale's The Synonym Finder.

This is, in case you are not aware of it, MY website, so with a flush of power, I place this poem at the Donglinsi on Lushan. You are free do place it anywhere you wish once you have downloaded it!

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