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The Journey to the West

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Spring Sleep (a reverie in springtime by Bai Juyi)

Spring takes us right to the edge of a great awakening.  That, at least, is the way I read this poem by the Tang poet Bai Juyi.  The poet lays down in springtime in perfect repose and finds himself transported.  This poem is the record of his journey.

Freshly bathed
Loose of limb
Alone I lay down
In peaceful contentment

By virtue of the night
Deeply enfolded in rest
After day’s long commotion
Sleep finally attends me

Oh spring
Sometimes wan and chill
But also by warmth blessed
When dawn enters the casement
I’m slumbering still

Withdrawn far from
The world of humanity
Sunk in the pillow’s depth
To the immortal realm ascending

Where I arrive as only seems fit
No longer dreaming
But overwhelmed and
Of speech completely bereft

As in a moment of triumph
To stumble drunkenly
All desire ends up over matched
In the pure stream of Chan

What cry then awakens me
A passing shrike
Outside the window
That breaks the reverie

Rising to my family
Wife and children laughing
A lifetime of spring gaiety
Yet a vaster realm
Has slipped away


新浴肢体     独寝神魂安
况因夜深坐     遂成日高眠
春被薄亦暖     朝窗深更
却忘人     似得枕上仙
至适无梦想     大和名言
何物呼我     声关关
起来妻子笑     春茫然

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