Inscribed on My Pine Study

From Burton Watson’s translation of Po Chu-i, the third of the great Tang dynasty poets (alongside Li Bai/Li Po and Du Fu/Tu Fu). Pine Study was the name of the poet’s house in Ch’ang-an. The act of inscribing his study and the overall mood both put me in mind of Montaigne.

Inscribed on My Pine Study (When I Became a Han-lin Scholar)
Not old, not young either,
my years exceed three dozen.
Not lowly, and yet not eminent –
for the first time assigned a post at court.
Meager talent, easily resigned to my lot,
liberal in mind, body at all times relaxed.
Any food that fills my belly I look on as tasty;
if there’s room for my knees, I’m content with my quarters.
How much more so this Pine Study of mine,
one ch’in, a couple of bags of books.
With books I don’t try too hard to get the meaning;
the ch’in I just play for my own enjoyment.
Nights on duty, I enter the ruler’s gates,
come home later to sleep in my own house.
I let my body move with the flow of things,
my mind I consign to emptiness.
This is how I get through the days,
the natural way, way of much repose,
blankly blank, silent, unspeaking,
not wise – not stupid either.

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