The Selected Poems of Wang Wei
At Cloud Valley with Huang-fu Yüeh
1 Bird-Cry Creek
In our idleness, cinnamon blossoms fall.
In night quiet, spring mountains stand
empty. Moonrise startles mountain birds:
here and there, cries in a spring gorge.
3 Cormorant Bank
A quick dive in red locust, then it rises
into flight across crystalline shallows,
perches alone on old driftwood: sleek
robe of black, beak gripping that fish.
4 Upper-Field Tranquility
Mornings they plow Upper-Tranquility Field,
evenings they plow Upper-Tranquility Field:
ask those who ask in this surging swelling world,
and you never fathom sage farmland wisdom.
5 Duckweed Lake
Beside this spring lake deep and wide, I find
myself waiting for your light boat to return:
duckweed slowly drifted together behind you,
and now hanging willows sweep it open again.
Climbing to Subtle-Aware Monastery
A bamboo path begins at the very beginning,
wanders up past Chimera City to lotus peaks
where windows look out across all of Ch’u
and nine rivers run smooth above forests.
Grasses cushion legs sitting ch’an stillness
Up here. Towering pines echo pure chants.
Inhabiting emptiness beyond dharma cloud,
We see through human realms to unborn life.
Encountering Rain on a Mountain Walk
Sudden rain blots out day, thunders down.
I search for empty blue sky, but it’s gone:
nothing but cloud-swells clear to the sea
and lighting igniting mountain darkness.
I fear floodwater at every stream-crossing,
and fog hiding clifftops. Then night comes:
clear skies, river moon. Here in the midst
of all this, I listen to a boatman’s oar-song.
Mourning Yin Yao
How long can a life last? And once
it’s gone it’s formless all over again.
I think of how you waited for death:
ten thousand ways a heart wounds.
Your gentle mother’s still not buried,
your daughter’s hardly turned ten,
but outside the city, cold-silence wind-
scoured expanses, I listen to lament
on and on. Clouds drift boundless skies,
birds wing through without a sound,
and travelers travel deserted silence
through a midday sun’s frozen clarity.
I remember you back then, still alive,
asking to study unborn life with me,
but my guidance came too late. Sad
how you never found understanding.
And those old friends here with gifts—
they never reached you either. So many
ways we failed you. All bitter lament, I
return to my brush-and-bramble gate.
To reach Yellow-Bloom River, they say,
You’d best follow Azure Creek through
These mountains, its hundred-mile way
taking ten thousand twists and turns,
first rock-strewn, kicking up a racket,
then its color serene deep among pines,
rapids tumbling water-chestnuts here,
crystalline purity lightning reeds there.
My mind’s perennial form is idleness,
and the same calm fills a river’s clarity,
so I’ll just liger here on this flat stone,
dangle my fishing line—and stay, stay.
The Way It Is
Faint shadow, a house, traces of rain.
In courtyard depths, the gate’s still closed
past noon. That lazy, I gaze at moss until
it comes seeping into robes.