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常建 古興 translation: Ancient Inspiration, by Chang Jian (漢上逢老翁)

This is a very rough translation and annotation of the poem 古興 (Gǔxìng), ‘Ancient Inspiration’, by the Tang Dynasty Chinese poet 常建 (Cháng Jiàn).

If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments at the end of the page.

Raven Negative Space

古興 Gǔxìng [old] [inspiration] Ancient Inspiration

漢上逢老翁, Hàn shàng féng lǎowēng, [Han] [on] [encounter] [old] [elderly man] On the River Han one encounters old men;

江口為僵屍。 jiāngkǒu wèi jiāngshī. [river] [mouth] [be] [stiff] [corpse] at the river mouth they become a stiff corpses.

白髮沾黃泥, Bái fà zhān huáng ní, [white] [hair] [moisten] [yellow] [mud] Their white hair is moistened with yellow mud;

遺骸集烏鴟。 yíhái jí wū chī. [leave behind] [bones] [gather] [crow] [owl] their remains attract a gathering of black ravens.

機巧自此忘, Jīqiǎo zì cǐ wàng, [cunning][] [from] [this] [forget] Their cunning one hereafter forgets -

精魄今何之。 jīng pò jīn hé zhī. [essence] [soul] [today] [what] [it] where has their spirit gone now?

風吹釣竿折, Fēngchuī diàogān zhé, [wind] [blow] [fishing] [pole] [break] The wind blows and one's fishing rod snaps;

魚躍安能施。 yú yuè ān néng shī. [fish] [jump] [how] [can] [carry out] the fish leaps around - how can one use one's skills?

白水明汀洲, Báishuǐ míng tīng zhōu, [white] [water] [bright] [shoal] [island] The white water brightens the islet;

菰蒲冒深陂。 gūpú mào shēn pō. [reeds][] [intrude] [deep] [bank] reeds encroach on deep banks.

唯留扁舟影, Wéi liú piānzhōu yǐng, [only] [leave] [small boat] [boat] [reflection] All that is left is the shadow of a small boat;

繫在長江湄。 xì zài chángjiāng méi. [tie] [at] [long] [river] [edge] one ties it at the edge of the Yangzi.

突兀枯松枝, Túwù kū sōngzhī, [towering][] [dried up] [pine] [branch] Towering high, dried up pine branches;

悠揚女蘿絲。 yōuyáng nǚluó sī. [draw out] [hoist] [vine][] [thread] strands of vine are lifted up high.

託身難憑依, Tuō shēn nán píngyī, [entrust] [oneself] [difficult] [rely on] [depend on] Propping up one's body, it is hard to rely on these things;

生死焉相知。 shēngsǐ yān xiāngzhī. [life] [death] [how] [each other] [know] the living and the dead - how can they know each other?

徧觀今時人, Biàn guān jīnshí rén, [all] [look] [today] [time] [person] Widely looking at the people of today, (徧 = 遍.)

舉世皆爾爲。 jǔshì jiē ěr wèi. [throughout the world][] [all] [you] [be] throughout the world, all are like you.

將軍死重圍, Jiāngjūn sǐ zhòngwéi, [general] [army] [die] [heavy] [siege] A general dies and there is a heavy siege;

漢卒猶爭馳。 hàn zú yóu zhēng chí. [Han] [soldier] [still] [strive for] [rush] the Han soldiers still compete to be rush forward.

百馬同一銜, Bǎi mǎ tóngyī xián, [hundred] [horse] [same] [one] [bit] A hundred horses on the same bridle;

萬輪同一規。 wàn lún tóngyī guī. [ten thousand] [wheel] [same] [one] [axle] ten thousand wheels on the same axle.

名與身孰親, Míng yǔ shēn shú qīn, [name] [and] [personal] [who] [intimate] One's name or body - which means more to you? -

君子宜固思。 jūnzǐ yí gù sī. [nobleman][] [hard] [should] [consider] you, sir, should think hard about this.

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