Saturday, August 29, 2009

Like a wild goose

The poet and scholar Su Shi (8 January 1037 - 24 August 1101) asked:

Do you know what it's like?— human life everywhere?
It must be like a wild goose flying, then treading slush of melting snow;
By chance in the slush it will leave the marks of its claws,
Then it flies off—how can we tell whether eastward or westward?
The old monk has died; a new pagoda is made;
On his cell's fallen walls we've no way to see poems written there long ago,
But do you still remember the rocky roads we traveled then to meet him?—
How the journey was long and we were worn out and my lame donkey brayed?

Translated by Stephen Owen, Traditional Chinese Poetry and Poetics:
Omen of the World, 1985, p. 131.

Here's the Chinese original:

人生到處知何似,應似飛鴻踏雪泥。
泥上偶然留指爪,鴻飛那復計東西。
老僧已死成新塔,壞壁無由見舊題。
往日崎嶇還記否,路長人困蹇驢嘶。

-