石鼓歌 A Poem on the Stone Drums

韓愈 Han Yu

Chang handed me this tracing, from the stone drums,
zhāng shēng shǒu chí shí gǔ wén ,
Beseeching me to write a poem on the stone drums.
quàn wǒ shí zuò shí gǔ gē 。
Du Fu has gone. Li Bai is dead.
shǎo líng wú rén zhé xiān sǐ ,
What can my poor talent do for the stone drums?
cái báo jiāng nài shí gǔ hé ?
...When the Zhou power waned and China was bubbling,
zhōu gāng líng chí sì hǎi fèi ,
Emperor Xuan, up in wrath, waved his holy spear:
xuān wáng fèn qǐ huī tiān gē ;
And opened his Great Audience, receiving all the tributes
dà kāi míng táng shòu cháo hè ,
Of kings and lords who came to him with a tune of clanging weapons.
zhū hóu jiàn pèi míng xiāng mó 。
They held a hunt in Qiyang and proved their marksmanship:
sōu yú qí yáng chěng xióng jùn ,
Fallen birds and animals were strewn three thousand miles.
wàn lǐ qín shòu jiē zhē luó 。
And the exploit was recorded, to inform new generations....
juān gōng lēi chéng gào wàn shì ,
Cut out of jutting cliffs, these drums made of stone-
záo shí zuò gǔ huī cuó é 。
On which poets and artisans, all of the first order,
cóng chén cái yì xián dì yī ,
Had indited and chiselled-were set in the deep mountains
jiǎn xuǎn zhuàn kè liú shān ā 。
To be washed by rain, baked by sun, burned by wildfire,
yǔ lín rì zhì yě huǒ liáo ,
Eyed by evil spirits; and protected by the gods.
guǐ wù shǒu hù fán huī ā 。
...Where can he have found the tracing on this paper? –
gōng cóng hé chù dé zhǐ běn ?
True to the original, not altered by a hair,
háo fà jǐn bèi wú chà é 。
The meaning deep, the phrases cryptic, difficult to read.
cí yán yì mì dú nán xiǎo ,
And the style of the characters neither square nor tadpole.
zì tǐ bù lèi lì yǔ kē 。
Time has not yet vanquished the beauty of these letters –
nián shēn qǐ miǎn yǒu quē huà ?
Looking like sharp daggers that pierce live crocodiles,
kuài jiàn kǎn duàn shēng jiāo tuó 。
Like phoenix-mates dancing, like angels hovering down,
luán xiáng fèng zhù zhòng xiān xià ,
Like trees of jade and coral with interlocking branches,
shān hú bì shù jiāo zhī kē 。
Like golden cord and iron chain tied together tight,
jīn shéng tiě suǒ suǒ niǔ zhuàng ,
Like incense-tripods flung in the sea, like dragons mounting heaven.
gǔ dǐng yuè shuǐ lóng téng suō 。
Historians, gathering ancient poems, forgot to gather these,
lòu rú biān shī bù shōu rù ,
To make the two Books of Musical Song more colourful and striking;
èr yǎ biǎn pò wú wěi shé 。
西
Confucius journeyed in the west, but not to the Qin Kingdom,
kǒng zi xī xíng bù dào qín ,
宿
He chose our planet and our stars but missed the sun and moon
jǐ zhí xīng sù yí xī é 。
I who am fond of antiquity, was born too late
jiē yǔ hǎo gǔ shēng kǔ wǎn ,
And, thinking of these wonderful things, cannot hold back my tears....
duì cǐ tì lèi shuāng pāng tuó 。
I remember, when I was awarded my highest degree,
yì xī chū méng bó shì zhēng ,
During the first year of Yuanho,
qí nián shǐ gǎi chēng yuán hé 。
How a friend of mine, then at the western camp,
gù rén cóng jūn zài yòu fǔ ,
Offered to assist me in removing these old relics.
wèi wǒ dù liàng jué jiù kē 。
I bathed and changed, then made my plea to the college president
zhuó guān mù yù gào jì jiǔ ,
And urged on him the rareness of these most precious things.
rú cǐ zhì bǎo cún qǐ duō ?
They could be wrapped in rugs, be packed and sent in boxes
zhān bāo xí guǒ kě lì zhì ,
And carried on only a few camels: ten stone drums
shí gǔ qí zài shù luò tuó 。
To grace the Imperial Temple like the Incense-Pot of Gao –
jiàn zhū tài miào bǐ gào dǐng ,
Or their lustre and their value would increase a hundredfold,
guāng jià qǐ zhǐ bǎi bèi guò 。
If the monarch would present them to the university,
shèng ēn ruò xǔ liú tài xué ,
Where students could study them and doubtless decipher them,
zhū shēng jiǎng jiě dé qiè cuō 。
鸿
And multitudes, attracted to the capital of culture
guān jīng hóng dōu shàng tián yàn ,
Prom all corners of the Empire, would be quick to gather.
zuò jiàn jǔ guó lái bēn bō 。
We could scour the moss, pick out the dirt, restore the original surface,
wān tái tī xiǎn lù jié jiǎo ,
And lodge them in a fitting and secure place for ever,
ān zhì tuǒ tiē píng bù pō 。
Covered by a massive building with wide eaves
dà shà shēn yán yǔ gài fù ,
Where nothing more might happen to them as it had before.
jīng lì jiǔ yuǎn qī wú tuó 。
...But government officials grow fixed in their ways
zhōng cháo dà guān lǎo yú shì ,
And never will initiate beyond old precedent;
jù kěn gǎn jī tú ān ē ?
So herd- boys strike the drums for fire, cows polish horns on them,
mù tóng qiāo huǒ niú lì jiǎo ,
With no one to handle them reverentially.
shuí fù zhe shǒu wèi mó sā ?
Still ageing and decaying, soon they may be effaced.
rì xiāo yuè shuò jiù mái méi ,
西
Six years I have sighed for them, chanting toward the west....
liù nián xī gù kōng yín ó 。
姿
The familiar script of Wang Xizhi, beautiful though it was,
xī zhī sú shū chèn zī mèi ,
Could be had, several pages, just for a few white geese,
shù zhǐ shàng kě bó bái é 。
But now, eight dynasties after the Zhou, and all the wars over,
jì zhōu bā dài zhēng zhàn bà ,
Why should there be nobody caring for these drums?
wú rén shōu shí lǐ zé nà 。
The Empire is at peace, the government free.
fāng jīn tài píng rì wú shì ,
Poets again are honoured and Confucians and Mencians....
bǐng rèn rú shù chóng qiū kē 。
Oh, how may this petition be carried to the throne?
ān néng yǐ cǐ shàng lùn liè ?
It needs indeed an eloquent flow, like a cataract-
yuàn jiè biàn kǒu rú xuán hé 。
But, alas, my voice has broken, in my song of the stone drums,
shí gǔ zhī gē zhǐ yú cǐ ,
To a sound of supplication choked with its own tears.
wū hū wú yì qí cuō tuó 。

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