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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Autumn Thoughts (Bai Juyi and me)

Every day for the last two weeks, weather permitting, the blue jays have come to feast on the sunflowers, pecking away until they were all but stripped bare of seeds; and all the while the sunflowers held their ground unflinchingly, only yielding begrudgingly, like Prometheus chained to the rock.  Until today, wan and haggard, the sunflowers finally appear to be on the verge of collapse. 

There’s no longer any point in denying that the change of season is upon us.

So here to celebrate autumn’s arrival is my translation of a poem by Bai Juyi

Autumn Thoughts

Bai Juyi

The moon shines down
Upon the north chamber
Brightness fills the courtyard
Illuminating the steps

A cool breeze stirs
From the west
Now the green world prepares
For days and nights
Of decline and rest

The paulownia and willow
Will slowly diminish their shade
The orchids and lilies will swoon
Into the tangled undergrowth  

Such things warrant
Close personal study   
At least my heart
Is inclined that way

Contentment may endure
Even as strength declines
Everything rises and falls
In Heaven’s appointed sequence

Thus a lifetime passes
Like sparks emitted by a flint
Pleasure comes frequently
Even as the hardship returns









*  *  *  *  *

With many thanks to my friend Steve Zhang for helping me better understand the last verse!

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