Su Shi English Translations
Click on the title of each poem for the text in Chinese characters, pinyin and literal translation.
Dreaming of My Deceased Wife on the Night of the 20th Day of the First Month
Ten boundless years now separate the living and the dead,
I have not often thought of her, but neither can I forget.
Her lonely grave is a thousand li distant, I can't say where my wife lies cold.
We could not recognise each other even if we met again,
My face is all but covered with dust, my temples glazed with frost.
In deepest night, a sudden dream returns me to my homeland,
She sits before a little window, and sorts her dress and make-up.
We look at each other without a word, a thousand tears now flow.
I must accept that every year I'll think of that heart breaking place,
Where the moon shines brightly in the night, and bare pines guard the tomb.
A lonely sick old man on eastern slope,
My frosty hair blows loosely in the wind.
My son, mistaken, is pleased by my ruddy face,
I smile: I know it's alcoholic red.
My frosty hair blows loosely in the wind,
In this small pavilion, I lie sick on a rattan bed.
The doctor's reported my beautiful sleep this spring,
The Taoist rings the fifth watch bell with care.
The sunset clouds are gathered far away, it's clear and cold,
The Milky Way is silent, I turn to the jade plate.
The goodness of this life and of this night will not last for long,
Next year where will I watch the bright moon?
New Year's Watch
Soon now, we'll mark the year's end that approaches,
It's like a snake that crawls into a hole.
Already half its scaly length is hidden,
What man can stop us losing the last trace?
And even if we want to tie its tail,
No matter how we try, we can't succeed.
The children make all effort not to sleep,
We laugh together, watching through the night.
The cockerels should not cry the dawn for now,
The drums as well should give the hour respect.
We sat so long the lamp's burnt down to ash,
I rise and see the Plough is slanting north.
Next year, perhaps, my span of years could end,
My fear is that I've just been marking time.
So exert ourselves to the utmost here tonight,
I still admire the exuberance of our youth!
Visiting the Temple of Auspicious Fortune Alone on Winter Solstice
Deep at the bottom of the well no warmth has yet returned,
The rain which sighs and feels so cold has dampened withered roots.
What sort of man at such a time would come to visit the teacher?
As this is not a time for flowers, I find I've come alone.
Visiting the Temple of the God of Mercy on a Rainy Day
The silkworms grow old,
The wheat half yellow,
The rain falls unrestrained about the mountain.
The farmers cannot work the land,
Nor women gather mulberry,
The Immortals sit high in white robes in the hall.
Written While Drunk in Lake-View Pavilion on the 27th Day of the Sixth Month
The inky clouds fly in, but do not hide the hills,
As random drops of white rain leap into the boats.
A sudden wind arrives and sweeps across the earth,
Below I see the lake a mirror of the sky.