Lin Yining: Lament for Chai Jixian ~ 林以宁·《哭柴季娴》 with English Translations










Lament for Chai Jixian

Lin Yining

The painting of Mahakasyapa on the wall

Is a relic of your work, still beautiful and vivid.(1)

In the cool of night, it gives off such a shimmering light,

I glance at it sideways, not daring to look directly.

I recall seeing you lower your brush to begin,

Living energy full, your spirit whole.

The way you painted was not demure and dainty;

You drew spontaneously, your green sleeves flew!

Often I longed to throw off the duties of worldly life

And follow you in service to cinnabar and white lead.

How could I know you would not be here to guide me?

Suddenly, in death, you abandon me forever.

I am moved to the depths, my sorrow is the clouds;

Your beauty and grace I keep like treasure concealed

In moonlight shining on the beams of my room.(2)

(1). Mahakasyapa is the Sanskrit name of one of the principal disciples of Sakyamuni Buddha. He became leader of the disciples, the first of the twenty-eight patriarchs, and the first compiler of the Buddhist canon. The Chinese form of his name, used by Lin, is Posa.

(2). Lin alludes in the poem’s closure to one of Du Fu’s poems written to Li Bo, older and much admired by Du Fu. When Li Bo appeared to Du Fu in a dream, Du became worried about his welfare, and in one of two poems to Li, he speaks of the lingering dream image: “Light of the setting moon fills the rafters; / I still seem to see your face there where it shines” (“Meng Li Bo”).

(Maureen Robertson 译)

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