Above the gorges, one thread of sky;
Cascades in the gorges twine a thousand cords.
High up, the slant of splintered sunlight, moonlight;
Beneath, curbs to the wild heave of the waves,
The shock of a gleam, and then another,
In depths of shadow frozen for centuries;
The rays between the gorges do not halt at noon;
Where the straits are perilous, more hungry spittle.
Trees lock their roots in rotted coffins
And the twisted skeletons hang tilted upright;
Branches weep as the frost perches
Mournful cadences, remote and clear.
A spurned exile’s shriveled guts
Scald and seethe in the water and fire he walks through.
A lifetime’s like a fine-spun thread,
The road goes up by the rope at the edge.
When he pours his libation of tears to the ghosts in the stream
The ghosts gather, a shimmer on the waves.
Meng Chiao (751 – 814) in Poems of the Late T’ang Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965 (Translated with an Introduction by A. C. Graham)