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Poetry Translations

with Susan McLean

Susan McLean 2019-06-08 cropped.jpg

Farewell with a Dream Song of Mountain Tianmu

Seafarers describe a celestial island in the eastern sea

Impossible to find through mists and waves

The Yue people speak of Mountain Tianmu

Seen through clouds blooming and waning

Tianmu reaches far and wide into the sky

Towers over Five Yues to eclipse Red City

Tiantai at forty-eight thousand feet

Bows southeast toward Tianmu’s feet

This made me travel Wuyue in a dream

I flew over moonlit Mirror Lake


The moon cast my shadow on the lake

Saw me all the way to River Shan

Lord Xie’s house was still there

Lucid water lapped as gibbons cried

Lord Xie’s wooden sandals on my feet

I climbed the ladder path into blue clouds

Halfway up the precipice I saw the sun rise from the sea

The air filled with Sky Rooster’s crowing


A thousand crags and ten thousand turns on the road

Enticed by flowers I leaned on a rock to find a sudden dusk

Bears roared dragons called shaking the rock spring

The deep forest trembled as ridges shuddered

Clouds darkened as if to rain

Fog rose from swirling water

Thunder clapped as lightning split clouds

Mountain peaks nearly collapsed

The stone gate to the celestials’ cave

Boomed opened from the middle

Within the cave an endless lapis sky

The Sun and the Moon lit palaces of gold and silver

Riding the wind in rainbow robes

The cloud rulers descended en masse

Tigers plucked strings as phoenixes pulled chariots

Teeming celestials lined up in a grand assembly


Just then my mind shifted my soul startled

I woke in confusion to heave sighs

With me only the pillow on the bed

No more splendor of vivid clouds

Such is joy’s limit in this mortal world

Everything has vanished in eastbound rivers since time began


Parting here when shall I see my friends again

Let the white deer graze between green cliffs

Someday I shall ride it to visit storied mountains

How could I bow with eyes lowered to attend the powerful

With my heart sealed in misery

Yun Wang is the author of The Book of Mirrors (White Pine Press, 2021), The Book of Totality (Salmon Poetry Press, 2015), The Book of Jade (Story Line Press, 2002), and Dreaming of Fallen Blossoms: Tune Poems of Su Dong-Po (White Pine Press, 2019).















































Li Bai (701–762), or “Li Po,” known as the Exiled Immortal, is the most celebrated and beloved poet in Chinese history. This poem is from Yun Wang’s Chinese/English bilingual poetry book manuscript, The Moon Over Ten Thousand Valleys: Poems of Li Bai.

Li Bai wrote this poem in 746 AD, after his departure from the capital in 744 AD as a result of political persecution by corrupt political rivals. Mountain Tianmu (Celestial Old Lady) is in today’s Zhejiang province (the Kingdom of Yue in ancient times), so named since legend told that those who climbed the mountain could hear the singing of a celestial old lady. Five Yues are five mountains sacred to Taoists. Red City and Tiantai are mountains in Zhejiang. Lord Xie refers to Xie Ling-Yun (385-433 AD), who stayed at Shan River when he visited Mountain Tianmu. Ancient legend told of the Sky Rooster who perched on a special peach tree with branches spanning three thousand li (one li is approximately 500 meters). When the sun rises and shines on the giant peach tree, the Sky Rooster crows, followed by all the roosters in the world. The Taoists believed that immortals live in a world that manifests as a cave to mortals but encompasses an entire universe inside. A white deer was said to be the usual mount of a celestial or hermit. — Yun Wang

Song (No English Affairs For Me)

I desire no new lovers

Having crossed English foam

As I have much better

In my country at home.


I don’t care to court favours

After Cupid a-roam:

I’ll seek none in England,

No sweet honeycomb,

As I have much better

In my country at home.


What can Fortune here give me

Beneath the sky’s dome

Or some woman from England

As cold as its loam

As I have much better

In my country at home?


I trust faithful courtship ―

No mad flings in my tome ―

Will be amply rewarded

On recrossing the foam

As I have much better

In my country at home.

Jerome Betts edits Lighten Up Online in Devon, England. His verse appears in Amsterdam Quarterly, Light, The Asses of Parnassus, The New Verse News, The Hypertexts, Snakeskin, and various anthologies.


Que no quiero amores

en Ingalaterra,

pues otros mejores

tengo yo en mi tierra.

Ni quiero ni estimo

ser favorecido;

de amores me eximo,

qu’es tiempo perdido

seguir a Cupido

en Ingalaterra,

pues otros mejores

tengo yo en mi tierra.

¿Qué favores puede

darme la fortuna,

por mucho que ruede

el sol ni la luna,

ni mujer alguna

en Ingalaterra,

pues otros mejores

tengo yo en mi tierra?

Que cuando allá vaya,

a fé y lo fío,

buen galardón haya

del servicio mío:

que son desvarío

los de Ingalaterra,

pues otros mejores

tengo yo en mi tierra.

Anonymous. Written by a member of Philip the Second’s suite at the time of his wedding to Mary Tudor in 1554.


Living in a quiet village

Where the long and harsh road trails off

To a place of blood and tears

We are pure.


The nights are warm and peaceful

And for our lovers we keep

This precious loyalty

Among all: the hope to live.

A. R. Bekenstein is an undergraduate student at Wesleyan University with translations featured in Columbia Journal.


Vivant dans un village calme
D’où la route part longue et dure
Pour un lieu de sang et de larmes
Nous sommes purs.

Les nuits sont chaudes et tranquilles
Et nous gardons aux amoureuses
Cette fidélité précieuse
Entre toutes: l’espoir de vivre.

Paul Éluard (1895-1952) was a French poet known for his work in founding the Surrealist movement and his lyrical, vivid, and fluid poetry.

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