老將行 Song of an Old General

王維 Wang Wei

When he was a youth of fifteen or twenty,
shǎo nián shí wǔ èr shí shí ,
He chased a wild horse, he caught him and rode him,
bù xíng duó dé hú mǎ qí 。
He shot the white-browed mountain tiger,
shè shā shān zhōng bái é hǔ ,
He defied the yellow-bristled Horseman of Ye.
kěn shù yè xià huáng xū ér 。
Fighting single- handed for a thousand miles,
yī shēn zhuǎn zhàn sān qiān lǐ ,
With his naked dagger he could hold a multitude.
yī jiàn céng dāng bǎi wàn shī 。
...Granted that the troops of China were as swift as heaven's thunder
hàn bīng fèn xùn rú pī lì ,
And that Tartar soldiers perished in pitfalls fanged with iron,
lǔ qí bēng téng wèi jí lí 。
General Wei Qing's victory was only a thing of chance.
wèi qīng bù bài yóu tiān xìng ,
广
And General Li Guang's thwarted effort was his fate, not his fault.
lǐ guǎng wú gōng yuán shù qí 。
便
Since this man's retirement he is looking old and worn:
zì cóng qì zhì biàn shuāi xiǔ ,
Experience of the world has hastened his white hairs.
shì shì cuō tuó chéng bái shǒu 。
Though once his quick dart never missed the right eye of a bird,
xī shí fēi jiàn wú quán mù ,
Now knotted veins and tendons make his left arm like an osier.
jīn rì chuí yáng shēng zuǒ zhǒu 。
He is sometimes at the road-side selling melons from his garden,
lù páng shí mài gù hóu guā ,
He is sometimes planting willows round his hermitage.
mén qián xué zhǒng xiān shēng liǔ 。
His lonely lane is shut away by a dense grove,
cāng máng gǔ mù lián qióng xiàng ,
His vacant window looks upon the far cold mountains
liáo luò hán shān duì xū yǒu 。
But, if he prayed, the waters would come gushing for his men
shì lìng shū lēi chū fēi quán ,
使
And never would he wanton his cause away with wine.
bù shì yǐng chuān kōng shǐ jiǔ 。
...War-clouds are spreading, under the Helan Range;
hè lán shān xià zhèn rú yún ,
Back and forth, day and night, go feathered messages;
yǔ xí jiāo chí rì xī wén 。
使
In the three River Provinces, the governors call young men –
jié shǐ sān hé mù nián shǎo ,
And five imperial edicts have summoned the old general.
zhào shū wǔ dào chū jiāng jūn 。
So he dusts his iron coat and shines it like snow-
shì fú tiě yī rú xuě sè ,
Waves his dagger from its jade hilt in a dance of starry steel.
liáo chí bǎo jiàn dòng xīng wén 。
He is ready with his strong northern bow to smite the Tartar chieftain –
yuàn dé yàn gōng shè dà jiāng ,
That never a foreign war-dress may affront the Emperor.
chǐ lìng yuè jiǎ míng wú jūn 。
...There once was an aged Prefect, forgotten and far away,
mò xián jiù rì yún zhōng shǒu ,
Who still could manage triumph with a single stroke.
yóu kān yī zhàn qǔ gōng xūn 。

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