In The Wei River
Bai Juyi (772-846), Chinese poet
translated by Arthur Waley (1889-1966), British scholar
In waters still as a burnished mirror’s face,
In the depths of Wei, carp and grayling swim.
Idly I come with my bamboo fishing-rod
And hang my hook by the banks of Wei stream.
A gentle wind blows on my fishing-gear
Softly shaking my ten feet of line.
Though my body sits waiting for fish to come,
My heart has wandered to the Land of Nothingness.
Long ago a white-headed man,
Also fished at the same river’s side;
A hooker of men, not a hooker of fish,
At seventy years, he caught Wen Wang.
But I, when I come to cast my hook in the stream,
Have no thought either of fish or men.
Lacking the skill to capture either prey,
I can only bask in the autumn water’s light.
When I tire of this, my fishing also stops;
I go to my home and drink my cup of wine.
from More Translations from the Chinese (1919)
courtesy of vintagewinepoems.com