Japanese and Chinese Poetry Brought Alive by Kenneth Rexroth

Kenneth Rexroth was an unparalleled translater of Japanese and Chinese poetry. Even though I don’t speak either language, it is intuitively clear that Rexroth echoed the original poet in every way.

From One Hundred Poems from the Japanese

I sit at home
In our room
By our bed
Gazing at your pillow.

Hitomaro

In all the world
There is no way whatever,
The stag cries even
In the most remote mountain.

The Priest Fujiwara No Toshinari

Yes I am in love.
They were talking about me
Before daylight,
Although I began to love
Without knowing it.

Miru No Tatami

Your fine promises
Were like the dew of life
To a parched plant,
But now the autumn
Of another year goes by.

Fujiwara No Toshinari

I love and fear him
Steadily as the surf
Roars on the coast at Ise.

Lady Kasa

From One Hundred More Poems From the Japanese

In the mountain village
The snow falls ceaselessly.
The paths are obliterated.
He would be truly devoted
Who visited me today.

Taira No Kanemori

Everybody tells me
My hair is too long
I leave it
As you saw it last
Dishevelled by your hands.

Lady Sono No Omi Ikuha

From the beginning
I knew meeting could only
End in parting, yet
I ignored the coming dawn
And I gave myself to you.

Fujiwara No Teika

From One Hundred Poems from the Chinese

I Remember the River at Wu Sung

I remember once, on a journey to the west,
An evening at the mouth of the river, at Wu Sung.
Among the banks a fresh breeze blew against the current.
The pale moon rose between two willow trees.
A single night bird flew far away.
Fishing boats wandered on the river.
And who was with me then?
I weep and think of my dead wife.

Mei Yao Ch’en

Melon Girl

The girl who sells melons besides the stream
Gathers her melons in the fields on the hillsides.
She does not need to spin hemp.
She has handsfull of bronze money.

Mei Yao Ch’en

Night Thoughts While Travelling

A light breeze rustles the reeds
Along the river banks. The
Mast of my lonely boat soars
Into the night. Stars blossom
Over the vast desert of
Waters. Moonlight flows on the
Surging river. My poems have
Made me famous but I grow
Old, ill and tired, blown hither
And yon; I am like a gull
Lost between heaven and earth.

Tu Fu

The Willow

My neighbor’s willow sways it frail
Branches, graceful as a girl of
Fifteen. I am sad because this
Morning the violent
Wind broke its longest bough.

Tu Fu

Begonias

The East wind blows gently.
The rising rays float
On the thick perfumed mist.
The moon appears, right there,
At the corner of the balcony.
I only fear in the depth of night
The flowers will fall asleep.
I hold up a gilded candle
To shine on their scarlet beauty.

Su Tung P’o

Check out this anthology for more from Rexroth (external link)

About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer who specializes in history, technology, and human interest stories.
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