“ON FINDING A PAINTING OF BUDDHA ON THE WALL OF HIS PRISON-CELL”1
By Liu Ch’ang-ch’ing, 8th cent.
Little I thought in a house of chastisement
To meet the gaze of the All-Compassionate.
Lying alone on a bed of bramble-thorns
I see before me the world of rain and flowers.
But the wall is narrow: the green lotus few;
The castle high: the sun late to rise.
Though ever with me the might of Buddha’s Grace,
Can He save me from the dragon that rages in my heart?2
In the Nine Provinces there is not room enough:
I want to soar high among the clouds,
And, far beyond the Eight Limits of the compass,
Cast my gaze across the unmeasured void.
I will wear as my gown the red mists of sunrise,
And as my skirt the white fringes of the clouds:
My canopy — the dim lustre of Space:
My chariot — six dragons mounting heavenward:
And before the light of Time has shifted a pace
Suddenly stand upon the World’s blue rim.3
“The Red Cockatoo”4
Sent as a present from Annam
A red cockatoo.
Coloured like the peach-tree blossom,
Speaking with the speech of men.
And they did to it what is always done
To the learned and eloquent.
They took a cage with stout bars
And shut it up inside.
Anon 1st century B.C.
“I am a prisoner in the hands of the enemy;”5
I am a prisoner in the hands of the enemy,
Enduring the shame of captivity.
My bones stick out and my strength is gone
Through not getting enough to eat.
My brother is a Mandarin
And his horses are fed on maize.
Why can’t he spare a little money
To send and ransom me?
_________ .. _________
The cypress on the mound.
The boulder in the stream.
Man’s life lived within this world
Is like the sojourning of a hurried traveller.
A cup of wine together will make us glad,
And a little friendship is no little matter.6
_________ .. _________
Man in the world lodging for a single life-time
Passes suddenly like dust borne on the wind.
Then let us hurry out with high steps
And be the first to reach the highways and fords:
Rather than stay at home wretched and poor
For long years plunged in sordid grief.7
She does not regret that she is left so sad,
But minds that so few can understand her song.
She wants to become those two wild geese
That with beating wings rise high aloft.8
Business Men by Chen Tzu-ang (A.D. 656–698).9
Business men boast of their skill and cunning
But in philosophy they are like little children.
Bragging to each other of successful depredationsa
They neglect to consider the ultimate fate of the body.
What should they know of the Master of Dark Truth
Who saw the wide world in a jade cup,
By illumined conception got clear of Heaven and Earth:
On the chariot of Mutation entered the Gate of Immutability?
[document] The “letter” was edited from three sheets, unsigned, one typed and two written in BR’s hand, in the Malleson papers in the Russell Archives. They contain the text of Chinese poems, translated by Arthur Waley, almost all of them in his A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (London: Constable, 1918). One is typed on Rinder’s typewriter, and seven are in BR’s best handwriting. He surely copied out the poems while he was in prison, for he used the same stock of ruled paper on which he wrote many prison letters. On the verso of the typed page, folded several times, BR wrote “Miss Rinder” but no other message; this also indicates the period of BR’s imprisonment. He had quoted two of the poems for Elizabeth Russell to give Frank (Letter 76) and others to Colette (21 Aug. 1918, Letter 78), which she mentioned in her letter of 2 September. Another poem, “Crossing an Old Battlefield at Night” (not quoted by BR), had been published in The Nation 27 (17 Aug. 1918): 526, to which Colette referred on 25 August (BRACERS 113153). BR also wrote out “On Paying Calls in August” (Waley, p. 57) for her (Letter 86). The titles or first lines and page numbers in Waley are noted editorially. The date of these sheets may be a little later than BR’s copying out of Waley’s translations on 21 August 1918 (Letter 76), for on 3 September Rinder noted to BR that last week she had received a copy of Waley’s book for him (BRACERS 79631). This might have been “The New Chinese Poems” that Rinder mentioned on 8 August that R.C. Trevelyan was going to send BR. A conjectured date of c.23 August seems appropriate. Almost every poem reflects one or more of BR’s prison moods, even his good humour.
Little I thought … in my heart? Not found in Waley. BR’s source is unknown.
In the Nine Provinces … blue rim. Found only in a later edition of Waley. BR’s source is unknown.
“The Red Cockatoo” Waley, pp. 149–50. BR quoted “The Red Cockatoo” in his Autobiography (2: 34).
“I am a prisoner in the hands of the enemy;” Quoted from Waley, p. 36, where it is titled “The Other Side of the Valley”. In quoting it also in Letter 76, BR titled it “Captivity”.
“Man in the world … sordid grief.” Waley, p. 41. BR omitted the quote marks around the five lines, as he did in quoting it in Letter 78.
depredations Misspelt as “depradations”.