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DIGEST | Poetry of Wei Ying-Wu

Scene: You cold brewed your tea overnight, and it's strained and ready to drink with ice. Or, your hot brew: some of us really do drink hot tea all year round. But returning to our scene: the AC unit is running as you sip your tea, but something is missing...yes, it's the poetry.

Luckily, Garrett has you covered with three poems by the Tang dynasty poet Wei Ying-Wu (韋應物). Moody, atmospheric, and full of landscapes and portraits of everyday life, Wei Ying-Wu's poetry is perfect for summer tea drinking. We like them best in the countryside or on the beach, but they also work as an elevated form of escapism...we can confirm.

And in case you needed summer teatime curation, here are a few of our favorite items.

Wei was serving his government job in the city of Ch'ang-an during the late summer of 781. Writing in response to his cousin, Wei Tuan, he expressed his longing for Tuan as he regretted leaving his countryside hut.

In Reply to Tuan
In suburban gardens summer rains have stopped
green shade spreads across vacant yards
working in an office doesn’t do any good
and goes against my love of seclusion
suddenly I see your image before me
and the sadness of separation fills my heart
especially when I feel the cool evening air
and hear the din of cicadas

郊園夏雨歇  閑院綠陰生  職事方無效  幽賞獨違情
物色坐如見  離抱悵多盈  況感夕涼氣  聞此亂蟬鳴

In the summer of 779, Wei visited the village east of town and expressed his admiration for his hero T'ao Yuan-ming (365-427), a poet who left his government job to retire to a village in the country.

East of Town
Stuck in an office all year
I left the city for the wide-open dawn
where willow catkins soothed the wind
and blue mountains stilled my cares
where everything green put me at ease
where I followed a stream and followed it back
where a light rain covered a flowering plain
and spring doves were calling unseen
I keep suppressing my love of seclusion
I'm invariably busy at work
but someday I'll retire and build a hut here
to be like Old T'ao would be sweet

吏舍跼終年  出郊曠清曙  楊柳散和風  青山淡吾慮
依叢適自憩  緣澗還復去  微雨靄芳原  春鳩鳴何處
樂幽心屢止  遵事跡猶遽  終罷斯結廬  慕陶直可庶

Written in the spring of 781, Wei wrote to his past government colleagues magistrate Han and Secretary Lu, echoing the idea that the lack of contribution working for the government should be replaced by retirement in the countryside.

Walking Late In My Garden: To Magistrate Han and Secretary Lu in Chaoying
Farmers have already started to plow
thick smoke is rising from their yards
birds are singing sweetly from garden trees
being retired I was still asleep
unaware the day was so late
I got up and gazed at the azure sky
I stretched my limbs
and felt happy indeed
then I went back below thatched eaves
poured some wine and considered fine men
adjusting their belts on their way to the office
with nothing but documents to fill their days
wishing they were here in the woods
enjoying the sight of mountains and streams
unless you're living in enlightened times
why not work on yourself instead

田家已耕作  井屋起晨煙  園林鳴好鳥  閑居猶獨眠
不覺朝已晏  起來望青天  四體壹舒散  情性亦忻然
還復茅檐下  對酒思數賢  束帶理官府  簡牘盈目前
當念中林賞  覽物遍山川  上非遇明世  庶以道自全 

Poems selected by Garret Long

Translated by Red Pine. In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu, Copper Canyon Press, 2009

Tang Dynasty Lu Hong 盧鴻

Lu Hong (盧鴻), "Ten Scenes of a Thatched Cottage", Tang Dynasty, National Palace Museum of Taipei.

Title Painting: Wang Wei (王維), "A Thousand Crags and Myriad Ravines", Tang Dynasty, National Palace Museum of Taipei.

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