Listening to the Playing on a Lute in a Boat

BY SU-SHIH

In my boat I sat alone,
And the hours were fast in flight,
When the sound of music broke
The stillness of the night.
Sighing winds through fir-trees swept,
Falling cascades murmured low,
As the master touched his lute—
So lovingly and slow.
Clutching fast my lapelled coat,
Rapture swayed me without bounds,
As with every nerve intent,
I listened to the sounds.
Yet again I longed to hear
Ancient chimes on jadestone bell,
Drawn forth by the Master's hand
From lute he loved so well.
Since the days of Chen and Wei,
When confusion filled the land,
Music rare of ancient style
Has found but scant demand.
Times and instruments alike,
For a thousand years and more,
Silent and forgotten lay,
And few the loss deplore!
One alone—the priceless lute—
Change and storm and wreck survives,
Watching nations rise and wane,
As god of mortal lives.
Music old is now decried,
Light songs and ditties sought,
Strains insipid, jerky turns,
Light and crispy wrought.
Instruments of wood remain,
Void of human feelings sweet,
Which the soul of ancient song
Never more may greet.
Peaceful is the river now,
Moon-beams play upon the scene,
From the ceaseless din of life
Night provides a pleasant screen.
In the silence of this hour,
Will you, Master, yet once more,
Wen-wang's melodies revive,
As in the days of yore?