Poems of Yu Xuanji
For Fei Qing (Wen Tingyun)
Stone steps and a cacophony of crickets
With branches hanging in the courtyard's clear air.
A neighbor's music echoes in the moonlight.
From this tower, the distant hills are birght.
On my sleeping mat, a cool breeze comes to me.
My precious lute releases my regrets.
If nothing else, my sending you this listless letter
Is a comfort to me as I near the end of things.
Here's what I'm sure of here. Yu Xuanji has come to know Wen Tingyun, the popular poet of her time, better over time, as she uses only his courtesy name to address him without the prefix of his family name. This need mean no more than that the two have often exchanged challenge poems as friends. But I would think that the two have met, at least with his visiting the monastery where she lives. A critical eye in translating his poetry might confirm this. I'm also pretty sure the first three lines are literal and the fourth is her interiority.
Here's what I'm not sure about. Line seven, character one (嵇) is a victim of the PRC's simplified characters. Simplified characters are like China's current verdict on Mao Zedong: 70% right, 30% wrong. I suspect the numbers in both cases need adjustment to reality. But one very bad thing in simplified is the collapse of several traditional characters onto a single simplified character. There are at least six characters collapsed onto 嵇. One is the surname Ji4. One is a mountain in Henan. And the remainder are lost or at least out of my reach. So I don't know what Yu Xuanji means here by 嵇. Probably not "Mr. Ji" or "mountain." So I'm ignorant on this ji4. But my ignorance is 无限 (boundless). The first two characters on line 8 are 底物 and mean literally "things below" and similar. But I have the feeling that they were earlier used together like 到底: "at bottom," "really," "in the final analysis." I've made the best guesses with all these things that I could.
Finally, I am starting to think that autumn (秋) can mean "life's end." This explains the use of "early autumn" (早秋) in her poems. One's years of life are often counted, after you are gone, as so many autumns. So this idea, coupled with her earning the familiarity of Wen Tingyun, place this poem near the end of her life.