Poems of Meng Jiao
Recalling sadly Xie Lingyun,
I can't tell if his poems are good or bad.
Though badly written and superficial,
I still can't achieve his level of naturalness.
This naturalness is Heaven-like,
Profound, refreshingly unique.
But seized by his giant divine hand,
Poems burst, unable to remain upon the heights.
They burst apart in a hideous manner
Held by the fingers of his grotesque hand.
They go where your mind cannot follow,
The follower losing the self-destroyed trail.
From time to time, it's a bit immortal,
Graceful, like a slender dragon.
As if there, beyond the distant hazy mist,
Something brilliantly interesting were seen.
This naturalness achieves its height in vain.
Its birdsong ends in little chokes.
There is something here to be praised but
All in all who can tolerate these poems?
Xie's fame is not something real,
Just bits and pieces of useless, tiny fuzz.
He exploits truly cultured poems
Because he can't bring himself to be still.
Meng Jiao -- Gentle Critic. You don't have to ask yourself where he really stands on the subject of Xie Lingyun's poetry, do you? While I consider this translation as "true" to the original, it seems like I was changing his words to mine on almost every line. This was because either 1) we don't say it even remotely that way in English or 2) using his words would require the lines to be three or four times as long in order to make sense. Maybe 1) and 2) are the same thing.
Just one example: The final line is 所以不敢慵. More or less literally, this is "Because he doesn't dare be lazy." Which, to me, seems to be "Because he can't bring himself to be lazy and not bother writing this junk." Even with that, there are overtones of the original clamoring to be included. You can see what I settled on. As I've said before, my translations are only about a sixth part of what you'd get if you'd only bother to learn classical Chinese and simply read the original. Lazy reader, you are cheating yourself in settling for such a paltry portion of these treasures. Stop daring to be lazy.