Poems of Mi Fu
River Melody Sung in My Head, at moonviewing festival
Stiff winds bring a pounding sound, a clamor
of crickets, that makes me yearn for the coming cold.
I've come into this landscape
not to develop my precious jewel
but to ease my melancholy,
to tidy up this desolate mood I'm in,
guided by the green liquor in my winejar.
I really can't stand my isolation.
I have lots of things I'm passionate about.
A full moon hanging over South Tower
makes me as sad as the next person.
A jade flute's melody in the distance
gives me a peaceful, good night.
I ask myself, "Has my country been turned upside-down?
Hasn't this day of typical scenery been lovely?"
I've leaned on this balcony a dozen times already.
I've wandered time and space like floating duckweed.
Drunk and sleepy, still somehow I'm sober.
Ah, to rest my head in this river's flow.
It may appear that I am taking some liberties with this translation. But I'm not. Amazingly, I'm not even making up the bit about "time and space" -- something you'd never get out of Du Fu or Bai Juyi. Mi Fu definitely has an attitude. But he's just an ordinary guy. He wishes the first good freeze would kill the crickets. He wishes that being what he is didn't make him lonely. He wishes the world weren't turned upside-down. He wishes he could just fall in the river and, sleepily, float away. If you don't wish all these things, with the possible exception of the crickets, you're reading the wrong poet. But here you are. So this must be the right place for you. Isn't it lovely?