Wu Tsao

In the Home of the Scholar Wu Su-chiang From
Hsin-an, I Saw Two Psalteries of the Late Sung
                General Hsieh Fang-te

Half of our borders, rivers and mountains were gone,
With their Spring orioles and blossoms.
Your former career was only a painful memory.
You watched the melancholy moon set
Over an abandoned temple in the wilderness.
You could no longer see the beacon fires of Sung,
So you lived disguised as a fortune teller,
In a kiosk on a bridge, and no one knew you.
You who had a will of iron,
And held back the billowing flood of the world,
All by yourself in a besieged city.
You chanted Tu Fu's songs of homesickness,
You chose death to preserve your integrity.
At the end of the years of hiding
On these slopes amongst the tea bushes
Haunted by the cuckoos crying as if in pain,
You left behind two psalteries
Of tung wood and these ancient songs,
And went to death, a handful of yellow dust,
But deserving a royal grave.
Now as I play them I can imagine
Dragons dancing in the depths
And the moss on the shore burning red.

   Chinese; trans. Kenneth Rexroth & Ling Chung

Wu Tsao, Chinese, trans. Kenneth Rexroth & Ling Chung,
The Orchid Boat: Women Poets of China, The Seabury Press,