A Summer Nightfall
After Han Wo
The tree in my yard
A sluggish shade, faint and fresh.
A translucent figure fades out
By the marble steps leading to a dark cave
From where a cricket is heard.
The sun is down for quite a while now,
And the breezes, continuous, cannot be seen
But make one feel.
Occasionally, from way over the eaves,
Late returning cuckoos call out their own names,
July 27, 2008
Han Wo's Original
[唐] 韩偓 (844-)
唐Tang (Dynasty) 韩HAN 偓Wo
庭yard 树tree 新new 阴shade 叶leaf 未not yet 成fully grown
玉jade 阶steps 人man 静silent 一one 蝉cicada 声sound
相continuous 风wind 不not 动stir 乌dark 龙dragon 睡sleep
时oft 有have 娇delicate 莺cuckoo 自self 唤call 名name
Note: 自唤名 (call out its own name) refers to cuckoo, which is believed to cry out its own name. In Chinese literary motif, the cry sounds like “bu-ru-gui-qu (不如归去),” literally meaning “not comparable with returning (hometown)”. Therefore, cuckoo is usually a symbol of nostalgia.
HAN Wo is a late Tang Dynasty poet, who wrote some of the best erotic literati poems in Chinese. It is reported that he had a collection of poems entitled 香奁集 Fragrant Casket, and therefore he was hailed or denigrated as writing in a “Fragrant Casket” Style. The great late Tang poet Li Shangyin (813-858) was the husband of his mother’s sister, and he esteemed his promise when Han Wo was a child.