From Three Hundred Tang Poems: 1-10

Five-character ancient verse
Zhang Jiuling
"Thoughts" (1)

A lonely swan flies in from the sea,
To alight on puddles it does not deign.
Nesting in the poplar of pearls
It spies and questions green birds twain:
"Don't you fear the threat of slings,
Perched on top of branches so high?
Nice clothes invite pointing fingers,
High climbers, gods' goodwill defy.
Bird-hunters will crave me in vain,
For I roam the limitless sky."

Five-character ancient verse
Zhang Jiuling
"Orchid and Orange" (1)

Tender orchid-leaves in spring
And cinnamon blossoms bright in autumn
Are as self-contained as life,
Which conforms them to the seasons.
Yet why will you think that a forest-hermit,
Allured by sweet winds and contented with beauty,
Would no more ask to be transplanted
Than would any other natural flower?

Five-character ancient verse
Zhang Jiuling
"Thoughts" (3)

The hermit in his lone abode
Nurses his thoughts cleansed of care,
Those he projects to the wild goose
For it to his distant ruler to bear.
Who will be moved by the sincerity
Of my vain day-and-night prayer?
What comfort is for my loyalty
When fliers and sinkers can compare?

Zhang Jiuling
"Orchid and Orange" (2)

Here, south of the Yangzi, grows a red orange tree.
All winter long its leaves are green,
Not because of a warmer soil,
But because its nature is used to the cold.
Though it might serve your honorable guests,
You leave it here, far below mountain and river.
Circumstance governs destiny.
Cause and effect are an infinite cycle.
You plant your peach trees and your plums,
You forget the shade from this other tree.

Five-character ancient verse
Li Bai
"Down Zhongnan Mountain to the Kind Pillow and Bowl of Husi"

Down the blue mountain in the evening,
Moonlight was my homeward escort.
Looking back, I saw my path
Lie in levels of deep shadow.
I was passing the farmhouse of a friend,
When his children called from a gate of thorn
And led me twining through jade bamboo
Where green vines caught and held my clothes.
And I was glad of a chance to rest
And glad of a chance to drink with my friend.
We sang to the tune of the wind in the pines;
And we finished our songs as the stars went down,
When, I being drunk and my friend more than happy,
Between us we forgot the world.

Five-character ancient verse
Li Bai
"Drinking Alone with the Moon"

From a pot of wine among the flowers
I drank alone. There was no one with me.
Till, raising my cup, I asked the bright moon
to bring me my shadow and make us three.
Alas, the moon was unable to drink
And my shadow tagged me vacantly
But still for a while I had these friends
To cheer me through the end of spring
I sang. The moon encouraged me.
I danced. My shadow tumbled after.
As long as I knew, we were boon companions.
And then I was drunk, and we lost one another.
Shall goodwill ever be secure?
I watch the long road of the River of Stars.

Five-character ancient verse
Li Bai
"In Spring"

Your grasses up north are as blue as jade,
Our mulberries here curve green-threaded branches;
And at last you think of returning home,
Now when my heart is almost broken.
O breeze of the spring, since I dare not know you,
Why part the silk curtains by my bed?

Five-character ancient verse
Du Fu
"A View of Taishan"

What shall I say of the Great Peak?
The ancient dukedoms are everywhere green,
Inspired and stirred by the breath of creation,
With the Twin Forces balancing day and night.
I bare my chest toward opening clouds,
I strain my sight after birds flying home.
When shall I reach the top and hold
All mountains in a single glance?

Five-character ancient verse
Du Fu
"To My Retired Friend, Wei"

It is almost as hard for friends to meet
As for the morning and evening stars.
Tonight then is a rare event,
Joining, in the candlelight,
Two men who were young not long ago
But now are turning grey at the temples.
To find that half our friends are dead
Shocks us, burns our hearts with grief.
We little guessed it would be twenty years
Before I could visit you again.
When I went away, you were still unmarried
But now these boys and girls in a row
Are very kind to their father's old friend.
They ask me where I have been on my journey
And then, when we have talked a while,
They bring and show me wines and dishes,
Spring scallions cut in the night rain
And brown rice cooked freshly a special way.
My host proclaims it a festival!
He urges me to drink ten cups
But what ten cups could make me as drunk
As I always am with your love in my heart?
Tomorrow the mountains will separate us;
After tomorrow, who can say?

Five-character ancient verse
Du Fu
"Alone in her Beauty"

Who is lovelier than she?
Yet she lives alone in an empty valley.
She tells me she came from a good family
Which is humbled now into the dust.
When trouble arose in the Kuan district,
Her brothers and close kin were killed.
What use were their high offices,
Not even shielding their own lives?
The world has but scorn for adversity;
Hope goes out, like the light of a candle.
Her husband, with a vagrant heart,
Seeks a new face like a new piece of jade;
And when morning glories furl at night
And mandarin ducks lie side by side,
All he can see is the smile of the new love,
While the old love weeps unheard.
The brook was pure in its mountain source,
But away from the mountain its waters darken.
Waiting for her maid to come from selling pearls
For straw to cover the roof again,
She picks a few flowers, no longer for her hair,
And lets pine needles fall through her fingers,
And, forgetting her thin silk sleeve and the cold,
She leans in the sunset by a tall bamboo.

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