Again, A Visit To Lake-Heart Pavilion (Zhu Zhu) Poem by Denis Mair

Again, A Visit To Lake-Heart Pavilion (Zhu Zhu)

Rating: 5.0

-—for Zhang Dai [1]

By Zhu Zhu
(Translated by Denis Mair)

It was in winter of 1632, snow fell for three days
All of Hangzhou Commandery retreated into the empty gate
And I…stretched out on the bed in my inn
Waited for a homeward road under the sun

Through wall panels I heard quarrels at the mahjong table
Between the innkeeper's wife and her guests
Outside the window, uprooted trees lay on the ground
As if Tatar horsemen had recently galloped through

Under curved eaves of Lake-Heart Pavilion
I heaped kindling in a brazier, as if building a nest
The wreathing ascent of smoke, diffusing the smell of wine,
Was another kind of homeward road

Then I watched as a little boat approached
Across the water, with the nimbleness of an otter
Attracted to the scent of fish—
Slicing the stillness of the lake's surface

The one who disembarked was knitting his brows
And seemed to have just come from visiting a pawnshop
His tunic was as worn as a dog-eared debt ledger
Baggy eyes proved his routine of inverted days and nights

His eyes were murky and bloodshot
But they brightened when he spotted wine on the brazier
After drinking a few cups, his hands no longer trembled
His cheeks turned ruddy, as if returning to his golden years

We drank cup after cup
Filled the empty cups and drained the full ones
It hardly seemed necessary to huddle by the stove
Echoes were heard from as far as the Cretaceous Epoch

Until he tottered to his feet
With a farewell gesture boarded his little boat
Leaving an empty wine-pot, with wine-lees strewn in an icy ring
And dusk encroaching on the pavilion

I didn't know who he was
But I guess he was an arhat, [2] banished from Western Heaven for indulgence
Condemned to stay in the human realm, compiling and binding
Pages of classical texts that fall every day like snowflake

[1] Zhang Dai (1597-1684) was an essayist and bon-vivant in the Ming era. He is remembered for his compilation of tales and anecdotes about Hangzhou, titled SEARCHING IN DREAMS FOR WEST LAKE (Xihu Mengxun) .
[2] An arhat is an enlightened being or saint in Theravada Buddhism. Arhats represent the highest level of spiritual attainment short of Buddhahood. (In Mahayana Buddhism, arhats are below the level of bodhisattvas.)

Sunday, August 5, 2018
Topic(s) of this poem: lake,wine,winter
Zhu Zhu is an eminent art critic and poet who lives in Beijing. He writes modern poems which often incorporate strands of literati culture from the area south of the Yangtze River.
tom billsborough 10 August 2018

The imagery is superb. The nimbleness of the otter... His tunic was as worn as a dog-eared ledger. Wow! He paints a story with such precision. Your English translation takes my breath away, Denis.

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Susan Williams 09 August 2018

Oh, got distracted by ny wanting to search for more Zhu Zhu, that I forgot to tell you 100000000000000000000++++++ 10's and a huge placement in my fav list- -now I go off to find more Zhu Zhu

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Susan Williams 09 August 2018

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, for translating this poem by Zhu Zhu- - -I cannot wait to read more of his work. There is such a strong sense of reality as if we were in the same room with the travelers - - awe inspiring and makes me want to create vignettes of my life and times. You are- as I have told you before - a blessing to PH

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