I mentioned I would share with you two of the poems that people read at the contest in Beijing, so here they are, translated by yours truly. They’re both very well known by Chinese people, and first up is Flowers on the Spring Breeze by Haizi. I actually couldn’t find a good English version, so here’s just mine.
Flowers on the Spring Breeze
Starting tomorrow, I’ll be a happy person
I’ll feed the horse, cut the wood, and see the seven seas
Starting tomorrow, I’ll care about my health
I’ll have a house that watches the waves, where you can smell flowers on the warm Spring breeze
Starting tomorrow, I’ll call my friends and family,
To tell them how happy I’ll be;
Tell them what I’ve learned,
That I’ve learned how to be happy.
Give a beautiful name to every stream you cross, every mountain you see.
Strangers, I hope you’ll be happy too
That you have a dazzling career,
That love will take you in its warm embrace,
That you’ll find joy in this world of ours.
As for me, I just want to watch the waves, and smell flowers on the warm Spring breeze
Hai Zi was a university professor in Beijing, and wrote this poem in March fittingly enough. Unfortunately he committed suicide two months later for reasons unclear. 😦 He also wasn’t a widely recognized poet when he was alive (in the late 80’s to early 90’s), but now he’s one of China’s most memorialized writers.
Second up is even more famous, Goodbye Cambridge written by Xu Zhimo, who studied banking in the Stated and politics at Cambrigde in the 20’s (in a couple years we’ll have to start specifying the 1920’s, won’t that be surreal?) before becoming a well regarded poet and visiting all over the western world. He unfortunately died in a plane accident in 1931 with several other contemporary authors. The poem, as you might guess by the title, is an ode of farewell to Cambridge.
Goodbye Again, Cambridge
I go as I came
Steps light upon the bridge
I lightly wave goodbye
To the clouds on yonder the ridge
Graceful willows on the bank
Are golden brides beneath the setting sphere
Gem-like reflections in the water
Touch my heart to calm all fears
Waterlillies on the mud
Think themselves the best around
But in these welcoming waters
I’ve be content to be a blade of grass
In a pool beneath an elm
You’ll find no water crystal clear
But a rainbow, dissolved from sky above
And solidified into a dream
Do you seek that dream divine?
Then fight the current bit by bit
And when your boat overflows with starlight
Let loose a glorious melody
But alas I cannot sing so grand
For soundless is that word, “goodbye”
Even the bugs of summer hold their noise
As silence rules over Cambridge
I go as I came
My steps softer than a kitten’s cry
I wave my hand to bid farewell
To that glorious western sky
Hope you enjoyed.