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Ch`ang Ch`ien 


Circa A.D. 720

One of the great philosopher-poets of the Taoist school. His life was spent far from the court and away from the sounds of civil warfare, in the endeavour to set himself in harmony with the universe -- to become, in fact, like an Aeolian harp through which all the cords of nature might sweep at will. How far he attained the end desired may be seen in his work, which is penetrated by a sense of profound beauty, recalling the quiet twilight upon the mountain-side, which he so well describes.

A Night on the Mountain

I sat upon the mountain-side and watched A tiny barque that skimmed across the lake, Drifting, like human destiny upon A world of hidden peril; then she sailed From out my ken, and mingled with the blue Of skies unfathomed, while the great round sun Weakened towards the waves. The whole expanse Suddenly in the half-light of the dusk Glimmered and waned. The last rays of the sun Lit but the tops of trees and mountain-peaks With tarnished glory; and the water's sheen, Once blue and bright, grew lustreless, and soon A welter of red clouds alone betrayed The passing of the sun. The scattered isles Uprose, black-looming o'er the tranquil deeps, Where the reflected heavens wanly showed A lingering gleam. Already wood and hill Sank in obscurity. The river marge Seemed but a broken line to failing sight.

. . . . .

Night is at hand; the night winds fret afar, The North winds moan. The waterfowl are gone To cover o'er the sand-dunes; dawn alone Shall call them from the sedges. Some bright star

Mirrors her charms upon the silver shoal; And I have ta'en the lute, my only friend: The vibrant chords beneath my fingers blend; They sob awhile, then as they slip control

Immortal memories awake, and the dead years Through deathless voices answer to my strings, Till from the brink of Time's untarnished springs The melting night recalls me with her tears.

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