Last Poem: Goodbye to My Garden


Was I no more than some fairy being,
strange beast from the Sutra of Ceylon,
arisen and set free to play
in Hsiao-ts'ang's summit garden?

Did I not know that garden's guests
of poems and lutes, wine and songs
would also hear the gong of time,
the last dripped drop of the water clock?

My eye roams the towers and pavilions,
and I know these lines are my farewell.
This mountain full of birds will stay,
forever wound and bound in its flowers.

Long ago an Immortal chose to return
to his home in the form of a crane,
and was almost shot down by a lad with a sling.
If I ever come back to this Paradise,
I'll remember to be careful.


                     Chinese; trans. J.P. Seaton


Yuan Mei, Chinese, trans. J.P. Seaton, I Don't Bow to Buddhas: Selected Poems of Yuan Mei, Copper Canyon Press, 1996.