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“Mandarin Duck” and Other Poems

In shallow ripples bathing together in pairs, as may be seen by the deep, clear waters of Xiangjiang.”

We have already encountered the Tang poet Li Zhong (920-974) in a previous collection published at Merion West. Below are a further three of his poems, as translated by Tom Ehrman. 


Mandarin Duck







That swiftly flying object is a duck, soaring through clouds over lakes and rivers.

Far off by the mouth of an estuary when the wind is high, settling on its banks with the mist at dusk.

Its habits so different to the egret, the smell of its feathers more penetrating than a lotus.

In shallow ripples bathing together in pairs, as may be seen by the deep, clear waters of Xiangjiang.


Dealing with Stupid Officialdom on a Spring Evening







The endless chatter of those enslaved by their careers, these trivial meetings all too frequent. Aargh!

What I want is to wander aimlessly in a beautiful landscape, staying till the last rays of the setting sun.

To the south, strange herbs vying in profusion, to the west, petals from a garden drifting in disarray.

Time for a toast, gentlemen. If not tipsy, you can’t recite poetry.


Composed by a River Hamlet on an Autumn Evening







Cool autumn, houses visible on the far bank of a hamlet by the water.

Fine red leaves of maples in a row, red-tinged flowers bedecked with dew.

Facing the river, a net on poles. Fish easy to catch, but credit hard to come by at the inn.

The Xinghu tells me “No more left.” Light breeze, as the sun sinks low.


Li Zhong was a poet of the Tang Dynasty era. Little is known of his life, but he appears to have been a local-level bureaucrat. He was active in poetry circles during his life. His poetry first appeared in English in this magazine earlier this year. 

Tom Ehrman, who holds a Ph.D. from King’s College London, is a translator of classical Chinese, specializing in medical texts and poetry. He has a particular interest in poetry of the late Tang period. He lives in London.

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