Night on the Lake

BY SU TONG-PO

Song Dynasty (a.d. 960-1278)

The breeze is sighing through the water grass,
As up and down the narrow deck I pass;
And through the rarest mist of Autumn night
The rain-moon floods the lake with pallid light.
The boatmen and the water-fowl sleep sound,
And in their dreams see other worlds around;
The big fish startled sneak in haste away,
As flurried fox flees from the dawning day.
In depths of night it seems the human soul
Its sway o'er other things has lost control;
I and my shadow play upon the strand
That marks the boundary of the silent land.
We watch the secret tides in noiseless work,
Forming new isles where earthworms safely lurk;
And on the moon—a monstrous pearl—we gaze,
Looming through willow-trees in silver haze.
Amidst our life of changing grief and woe,
A glimpse of purer worlds will come and go,
As on this lake when nature's holy power
Speaks to us in the dark and silent hour.
But hark, the cock crows; rings the temple bell!
And birds awake in mountain, plain, and dell;
The guardship beats its drum, the boats unmoor,
While din and shouting on the hearer pour.