Chinese 323 Ascending Heights (1)


Wang Can/Wang Ts'an (177-217)

"Rhapsody (fu, or rhyme-prose) on Climbing the Tower"




I climb this tower and gaze in the four directions,

Briefly stealing some time to dispel my sorrows.

I scan the site on which this building rests:

Truly spacious and open, rare is its peer!

It hugs the intersecting channel of the clear Zhang,

Rests upon the long sandbars of the meandering Ju,

Backs upon a broad stretch of hillock and plain,

Faces toward the rich flow of river margin and marsh,

North extends to Tao's pasturage,

West touches Zhao's barrow.

Flowers and fruit cover the plain,

Millets fill the fields.

Though truly beautiful, it is not my home!

How can I remain here even briefly?




Encountering tumult and turmoil, I wandered afar;

A long decade has passed until now.

With my heart longing and languishing, I cherish a return;

Who can bear such anxious thoughts?

Leaning on the grilled railing, afar I gaze,

Face the north wind and open my collar.

The plain distantly stretches as far as the eyes can see,

But it is obscured by Jing mountains' high ridges,

Roads sinuously snake, distant and far;

Rivers are long, fords are deep.

I am sad to be blocked and cut off from my homeland;

Tears stream down my face, and I cannot hold them back.

Of old, when Father Ni was in Chen,

There was his sad cry "Let us return!" (note)

When imprisoned, Zhong Yi played a Chu tune;

Though eminent, Zhuang Xi intoned the songs of Yue. (note)

All men share the emotion of yearning for their lands;

How can adversity or success alter the heart?




Thinking how days and months pass quickly by,

I wait for the river to clear, but it does not.

I hope for the King's way at last to be smooth,

And to take the high road to try my strength.

I fear hanging uselessly like a gourd, (note)

Dread being a cleaned well from which no one drinks.

Walking slow and sluggish, I pace to and fro;

The bright sun suddenly is about to set.

The wind, soughing and sighing, rises all around;

The sky, pale and pallid, has lost all color.

Beasts, wildly gazing, seek their herds;

Birds, crying back and forth, raise their wings.

The plains and wilds are deserted, unpeopled;

Yet, wayfarers march on, never resting.

My heart, sad and sorrowful, burst with pain;

My mood, somber and sullen, is doleful and dreary.

As I descend the steps,

I feel my spirit troubled and tormented within my breast.

The night reaches midpoint, yet I do not sleep;

Pensively brooding, I toss and turn.



Chen Zi'ang/Ch'en Tzu-ang (661-702)

"Song on Climbing Youzhou Terrace"


Behind me I do not see the ancient men,

Before me I do not see the ones to come.

Thinking of the endlessness of heaven and earth,

Alone in despair, my tears fall down.



Wang Wei (701-761)

"Written on Climbing the Hebei Citywall Tower"


Divided fields above Fu's grotto:

A traveler's stop within the clouds and mist.

On the high citywall I gaze at the far setting sun;

To the end of the reach azure mountains gleam.

Fire on the shore: a lone skiff rests for the night.

Fishermen's homes: evening birds return.

Vast and distant, the sky and earth at dusk:

My heart and the broad river are at peace.



Du Fu/Tu Fu (712-770)

"Climbing the Tower"


Flowers near the high tower sadden the traveler's heart,

Many difficulties in myriad directions, I face on this ascending.

With the Brocade River and its color of spring come the heaven and earth;

The floating clouds above Marble Fort Mountain changes from antiquity till now.

The Court of the Northern Star remains unchanged;

Let the marauders from the Western Mountains cease their raiding!

The pitiable Second Ruler still has his shrine,

As evening falls I shall sing a song of Liangfu. (note)


"Ascending a Height"


The wind is keen, the sky is high; apes wail mournfully.

The island looks fresh, the white sand gleams; birds fly circling.

An infinity of trees bleakly divest themselves, their leaves falling, falling.

Along the endless expanse of river the billows come rolling, rolling.

Through a thousand miles of autumn's melancholy, I've been a constant traveler,

Racked with a century's diseases, alone I have dragged myself up to this high terrace.

Hardship and bitter chagrin have thickened the frost upon my brow.

And to crown my despondency I have lately had to renounce my cup of muddy wine!


"Climbing Yueyang Tower"


Long ago I heard about the waters of Dongting,

And now I climbed up Yueyang tower.

The lands of Wu and Chu were cleaved to east and south.

Day and night the world floats in its changing waters.

Of friends and family I have no word.

Old and ill I have only a solitary boat.

The war-horse stamps north of the passes;

I lean on the railing and my tears flow.