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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Autumn Butterfly (by Bai Juyi)

On our walk this morning Marissa and I came across several small butterflies busily extracting a few last drops of nectar from the purple echinacea in our neighbor's garden.  It reminded me of a poem called Autumn Butterfly by the great Tang poet Bai Juyi.  So when I got home I decided to extract a few drops of nectar myself by translating the poem, providing yet another example of the fortuitous synchronicity between Tang poetry and my life. 

Autumn Butterfly

Autumn flower - a spray of purple
Autumn butterfly – a yellowish muddle
Flowers droop even as the young butterfly
Flies playfully from east to west

Come sunset a cool breeze will arrive
One by one the flowers will lose luster and
With the chill of white dew in night’s depth
The butterfly will die in the cluster’s midst

Born in morning by evening comes death
The life of each being proceeds at its own pace
Have you not seen the thousand-year cranes
Perched so high in their pine tree nest?



秋花紫蒙蒙     秋蝶黄茸茸
花低蝶新小     飞戏丛西

日暮凉      纷纷花落
夜深白露冷      蝶已死

朝生夕俱死      各相从
千年      多栖百丈松

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