Boat night

Here's a poem by a Chinese Buddhist nun called Haiyin 海印 that I found on page 273 of Tōdai no joryū shijin 唐代の女流詩人 ("Female poets of the Tang period"), by Yue Shuren 楽恕人. My translation is inevitably influenced by Yue's yomikudashi although I do differ from him on some points (e.g. he has the boat following the moon rather than the other way around).

A night on a boat
The color of the water, then of heaven
The sound of wind beneath the sound of waves
The traveler is grieved by thoughts of home
The fisherman starts from far-roaming dreams
Raise the oars: the clouds are there already
Row the boat: the moon brings up the rear
The song is sung, the poem at an end
The mountains sprawl as distant
        as they were when we began

According to Yue, Haiyin was renowned as a poet in her time, but this is the only poem of hers that survives. Nothing in the original justifies messing with the meter in the last line like that. I'm sorry, Haiyin. It's 1 AM and I give up.

For another take on the poem (and some related materials), see Wendi Adamek's "The Literary Lives of Nuns: Poems Inscribed on a Memorial Niche for the Tang Nun Benxing", which quotes a translation from Wilt L. Idema and Beata Grant's anthology The Red Brush.

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L. N. Hammer:



L. N. Hammer:

Possible last line: "The mountains sprawl distant as when we began"?


I'll allow it. *gavel*

It is a nice poem, isn't it? Not exactly original sentiments, but I like the line about the oar and the clouds (even though it's quite possible I don't understand it correctly).



...the mountains far away as ever

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