Wu ChengEn (1501-1582) “Woodcutter’s Song”
Translated by William John Francis Jenner (b. 1940)*
Watching the chess game I cut through the rotten,
Felling trees, chop, chop.
Strolling at the edge of the cloud and the mouth of the valley,
I sell firewood to buy wine,
Cackling with laughter and perfectly happy.
By a green path in autumn,
I pillow myself on a pine root, looking up at the moon.
When I wake up it is light.
Recognizing the old forest
I scale cliffs and cross ridges,
Cutting down withered creepers with my axe.
When I’ve gathered enough to make a load
I walk down to the market with a song.
And trade it for three pints of rice.
Nobody else competes with me,
So prices are stable.
I don’t speculate or try sharp practice,
Couldn’t care less what people think of me,
Calmly lengthening my days.
The people I meet
Either Taoists or Immortals,
Quietly sitting to expound the Yellow Court.
* British sinologist/translator