v2.0 (old cypress)

The title, “old cypress”, is a reference to a poem by the Tang poet Du Fu (Wade-Giles: Tu Fu, hanzi: 杜甫). Here’s the translation by Arthur Cooper (Li Po and Tu Fu):

“The Ballad of the Ancient Cypress”

In front of K’ung-ming Shrine
   stands an old cypress,
With branches like green bronze
   and roots like granite;

Its hoary bark, far round,
   glistens with raindrops,
And blueblack hues, high up,
   blend in with Heaven’s:

Long ago Statesman, King
   kept Time’s appointment,
But still this standing tree
   has men’s devotion;

United with the mists
   of ghostly gorges,
Through which the moon brings cold
   from snowy mountains.

(I recall near my hut
   on Brocade River
Another Shrine is shared
   by King and Statesman

On civil, ancient plains
   with stately cypress:
The paint there now is dim,
   windows shutterless….)

Wide, wide though writhing roots
   maintain its station,
Far, far in lonely heights,
   many’s the tempest

When its hold is the strength
   of Divine Wisdom
And straightness by the work
   of the Creator…

Yet if a crumbling Hall
   needed a rooftree,
Yoked herds would, turning heads,
   balk at this mountain:

By art still unexposed
   all have admired it;
But axe though not refused,
   who could transport it?

How can its bitter core
   deny ants lodging,
All the while scented boughs
   give Phoenix housing?

Oh ambitious unknowns,
   sigh no more sadly:
Using timber as big
   was never easy.

The tagline of this blog, “wide, wide though writhing roots”, also comes from this poem, which describes an ancient tree next to a shrine to Kongming, also known as Zhuge Liang, the master strategist for Shu in Luo Guanzhong’s classic historical novel, The Three Kingdoms.