Boating on South Lake with Elder Brother Yuan Liu
by Wei Ying-wu (translated by Red Pine)
Taking time off in the enervating heat
we drifted in a skiff along the city moat
a light wind blew open our robes
a flute echoed through the woods
thin clouds darkened the water
a fine rain cooled the lotus-scented air
rather than pour out our cares
we raised our cups to the flowers
"Boating on South Lake with Elder Brother Yuan Liu” is from In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu, translated by Red Pine, and published by Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, 2009).
Wei Ying-wu (737-791) was born into an aristocratic family in decline, and served in several government posts. He fashioned a poetic style counter to the mainstream: one of profound simplicity centered in the natural world. He is considered among the finest Tang dynasty masters, in the ranks of Tu Fu, Li Pai, and Wang Wei. Few of his poems have been translated into English.
Red Pine is one of the finest translators of Chinese poetry into English. He was the first to translate the classical anthology Poems of the Masters. He spent four years in a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, and produced radio programs in Taiwan and Hong Kong about his travels in China. He is the author of Zen Baggage, an account of a pilgrimage to sites associated with the beginning of Zen in China. He lives with his family in Port Townsend, Washington.