More Translations from the Chinese/Fishing in the Wei River

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More Translations from the Chinese  (1919)  by Bai Juyi, translated by Arthur Waley
Fishing in the Wei River

[22] FISHING IN THE WEI RIVER

[A.D. 811]

In waters still as a burnished mirror's face,
In the depths of Wei, carp and grayling swim.
Idly I come with my bamboo fishing-rod
And hang my hook by the banks of Wei stream.
A gentle wind blows on my fishing-gear
Softly shaking my ten feet of line.
Though my body sits waiting for fish to come,
My heart has wandered to the Land of Nothingness.[1]
Long ago a white-headed man[2]
Also fished at the same river's side;
A hooker of men, not a hooker of fish,
At seventy years, he caught Wēn Wang.[2]
But I, when I come to cast my hook in the stream,
Have no thought either of fish or men.
Lacking the skill to capture either prey,
I can only bask in the autumn water's light.
When I tire of this, my fishing also stops;
I go to my home and drink my cup of wine.


  1. See "Chuang Tzŭ," chap. i, end.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Sage T'ai-kung sat still till he was seventy, apparently fishing, but really waiting for a Prince who would employ him. At last Wēn Wang, Prince of Chou, happened to come that way and at once made him his counsellor.