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East window: the Asian translations

William Stanley Merwin

Merwin, William Stanley;

East window: the Asian translations

Copper Canyon Press, 1998, 337 pages

ISBN 1556590911, 9781556590917

topics: |  poetry | india | china | japan | translation | anthology

I bought this volume thinking it contains his complete translations of Far Eastern and Indian poetry, but it is a selection. After a number of Merwin's translations, most of the volume is devoted to a translation of the work of Muso Soseki.


Meng Hao-Jan (689-740) : The Lake of the Ten Thousand Mountains p.16

I throw the line in from this little island.
The water is clear and my heart is protected.
The fish pass under the trees of the lake.
Along the promontory monkeys swing on the vines.

The wandering beauty of former days took off her necklace
In these mountains, the legend says.
I look for her but I have not found her.
The songs of the rowers lose the way to the moon.

Li Po (701-762) : Quiet Night Thoughts p.17

I wake and my bed is gleaming with moonlight

Frozen into the dazzling whiteness I look up
To the moon herself
And lie thinking of home

Kalidasa (5th c.) :Even the man who is happy (Waking) p.31

		trans. with J. Moussaieff Masson

Even the man who is happy
      glimpses something
      or a hair of sound touches him

      and his heart overflows with a longing
            he does not recognize

then it must be that he is remembering
      in a place out of reach
      shapes he has loved

      in a life before this

      the print of them still there in him waiting

I like sleeping with somebody: Anonymous (sanskrit) p.33

		trans. with J. Moussaieff Masson

I like sleeping with somebody


it's nicest when my husband is
   in a foreign country,

   and there's rain in the streets at night
   and  wind

   and nobody

Kshemendra (12th c. Sanskrit): KavikanThabharaNa verses 10-11, 12th c. p.36

A poet should learn with his eyes
the forms of leaves
he should know how to make
people laugh when they are together
he should get to see
what they are really like
he should know about oceans and mountains
in themselves
and the sun and the moon and the stars
his mind should enter into the seasons
he should go
among many people
in many places
and learn their languages

"Hiding in the cucumber garden" : Anonymous (sanskrit) p.37

		trans. with J. Moussaieff Masson

Hiding in the
cucumber garden
simple country girl shivers
with desire
her lover on a low cot
lies tired with love
she melts into his body
with joy
his neck tight in her arms
one of her feet
flicking a necklace of
seashells hanging
on a vine
on the fence
rattles them to scare off
foxes there in the dark

Japanese Figures II

glass sky
horses fattening

			bird flies up
			where your foot was going

skin in the morning
bone by nightfall

			to the winners
			the losers
			were rebels
					p. 124

pleasure flower
pain seed

			while folly parades
			wisdom stands aside.

whole place no bigger
than a cat's forehead

			like a cat's eyes

the news
wakes you
like water poured into your ear

			get there first
			and then argue

seed hardly spouted
you know it's sandalwood

			eat first
			poetry later

get three women together
that's noise

			collects all the tongues

gets at lion
from inside

			save me from a small mind
			when it's got nothing to do

one god goes
but another comes  

			get away with anything

in a vise  

			ashamed for a minute
			dont ask dont know
			ashamed forever 

as like
as clouds and mud

			kills an ox
			trying to straighten its horns

your own size

			to a horse's ears

if it's good

its hard to dismount
from a tiger  p.134
	Chinese proverb: 骑虎难下 qí hǔ nán xià

Chase two hares, 
both get away.
	Korean figures p.96

Moonlight falls on piled fruit
this grief is like no one else's
there are crowds all the time but I am alone
	Malay figures p.143


Preface 							         3

Selected Translations

Liu Ch'e : "Oh the sound of her silk sleeves" 		        15
Meng Hao-Jan : The Lake of the Ten Thousand Mountains 	        16
Li Po : Quiet Night Thoughts 					        17
Niu Hsi Chi : "Where the mist has torn" 			        18
Tu Fu : Autumn Night 						        19
Van Hanh : The Body of Man 					        20
Man Giac : Rebirth 						        21
Khong Lo : The Ideal Retreat 					        22
Ngo Chi Lan : Autumn 						        23
Ngo Chi Lan : Winter 						        24
A Woodcutter on His Way Home 					        25
The Substituted Poem of Laureate Quynh 			        26
Tran Te Xuong : Women 					        27
Daio : "I have had a companion on the road" 			        28
Muso Soseki : "For years I dug in the earth" 			        29
Takushitsu : "A breeze strokes the water of the spring" 	        30
Kalidasa : "Even the man who is happy" 			        31
Cosmology 							        32
Anonymous : "I like sleeping with somebody" 			        33
"Between his hands" 						        34
"Water pouring from clouds" 					        35
Kshemendra : from Kavikanthabharana 				        36
Anonymous : "Hiding in the cucumber garden" 			        37
"My husband before leaving" 					        38
"A long time back" 						        39
Rumi : "That moon which the sky never saw" 			        40
Rumi : "When the heart bursts into flame" 			        42
Rumi : "Wise teacher tell me" 				        45
Rumi : "Love you alone have been with us" 			        47
Rumi : "If you're not going to sleep" 			        49
Tatar Songs 							        51
Yunus Emre : "The whole universe is full of God" 		        53
Mirza Ghalib : Ghazal V 					        54
Mirza Ghalib : Ghazal XII 					        55
Mirza Ghalib : Ghazal XV 					        56
Mirza Ghalib : Ghazal XXI 					        57
Mirza Ghalib : Ghazal XXV 					        59
Mirza Ghalib : Ghazal XXXIV 					        60

Asian Figures

Korean Figures 						        67
Burmese Figures 						        99
Japanese Figures I 						       104
Philippine Figures 						       118
Japanese Figures II 						       124
Chinese Figures I 						       133
Malay Figures 						       141
Chinese Figures II 						       148
Lao Figures 							       160
Chinese Figures III 						       161

--Sun at Midnight: Poems by Muso Soseki
Introduction to Muso 						       167
Wandering 							       185
A Lodging House in Town 					       186
Buddha's Satori 						       187
For Taihei Osho 						       188
Reizan Osho Visits Me 					       189
"I'm not so deep in it" 					       190
Reply to Reizan Osho 						       191
Thanks for Daisen Osho's Visit 				       192
"Chick feed is what I eat" 					       193
"Loud thunder" 						       194
Thanks Sent to Taihei Osho 					       195
From My Hut in Miura 						       196
"In these mountain villages and harbor towns" 		       197
"From the beginning" 						       198
"East of the strait" 						       199
"My thatched hut" 						       200
"All on my own I'm happy" 					       201
Heaven Peak 							       202
Gem Mountain 							       203
Another Summit 						       204
Bamboo Garden 						       205
To the Emperor's Messenger 					       206
Old Creek 							       207
Snow Valley 							       208
Dry Tree 							       209
Old Man in Retirement 					       210
Strange Peak 							       211
Poem on Dry Mountain (A Zen Garden) 				       212
At the Nachi Kannon Hall 					       213
Spring Cliff 							       214
Reply to Gen'no Osho's Poem 					       215
For the Death of a Monk 					       216
"People's abuse" 						       217
To Kengai Osho of Engaku-ji 					       218
Moon Mountain 						       219
Free Old Man 							       220
Visiting My Old Hut in Late Spring 				       221
"On the blue waves" 						       222
Laughing Mountain 						       223
Inauguration of Fukusan Dormitory 				       224
Cloud Mountain 						       225
At Gen's Embarkation for Yuan China 				       226
At Kan's Embarkation for Yuan China 				       227
At Iku's Embarkation for Yuan China 				       228
Mourning for the Layman Named Cloud Peak 			       229
Patriarch Peaks 						       230
East Peak 							       231
Old Hut 							       232
Tengan Osho's Visit to Erin-ji 				       233
"In this small hut" 						       237
"Among rocks and valleys" 					       238
"Very high this mountain" 					       239
"All worries and troubles" 					       240
"A curtain of cloud hangs" 					       241
"Don't ask suspiciously" 					       242
"I wake from my noon nap" 					       243
"Green mountains" 						       244
"Time for a walk" 						       245
"With compassionate hands" 					       246
Pine Shade 							       249
Plum Window 							       250
Jewel Field 							       251
Truth Hall 							       252
No Precedent 							       253
Old Man To-The-Point 						       254
Old Man Advancing 						       255
Abiding Mountain 						       256
Snow Garden 							       257
One Hut 							       258
Moon Tree Cliff 						       259
Gem Creek 							       260
No-Word Hut 							       261
Old Mountain 							       262
No End Point 							       263
Lover of Mountains 						       264
Suzan Osho's Visit 						       265
Reply to Suzan Osho's Snow Poem 				       266
The Pure Sound Pavilion of the Riverside Temple 		       267
For Gen the New Head Priest of Erin-ji 			       268
For Myo's Departure for Anzen-ji 				       269
For Myo's Departure for Shofuku-ji 				       270
For Tetsu the New Head Priest of Erin-ji 			       271
For Sho the New Head Priest of Erin-ji 			       272
At Whole-World-In-View Hut 					       273
Ashikaga Tadayoshi's Palace 					       274
Climbing Down the Snowy Mountain 				       275
Snow at Rohatsu Sesshin 					       276
It 								       277
Magnificent Peak 						       278
Reply to Bukko Zenji's Poem at Seiken-ji 			       279
Snow 								       280
Gem Forest 							       281
Withered Zen 							       282
The Fragrance of the Udumbara 				       283
House of Spring 						       284
No Gain 							       285
By the Sea 							       286
For Ko Who Has Come Back from China 				       287

Ten scenes in the dragon of heaven temple
   The Gate of Universal Light 				       291
   Incomparable-Verse Valley 					       292
   Hall of the Guardian God 					       293
   Hui-neng's Pond 						       294
   The Peak of the Held-Up Flower 				       295
   The Bridge Where the Moon Crosses 				       296
   Three-Step Waterfall 					       297
   Cave of the Thousand Pines 				       298
   Dragon-Gate House 						       299
   Turtle Head Stupa 						       300

Tiger Valley 							       303
Toki-no-Ge (Satori Poem) 					       304
The Garden at the General's Residence 			       305
Temple of Eternal Light 					       306
Mugoku Osho's Snow Poem 					       307
Suzan Osho's Visit to My West Mountain Hut 			       308
On the Wall of Cloud-Friend Hut 				       309
Digging Out the Buddha Relic 					       310
Reply to a Friend's Poem 					       311
Ox Turned Loose 						       312
Clear Valley 							       313
Old Man at Leisure 						       314
Ancient Origin 						       315
Old Man of Few Words 						       316
Jewel Cliff 							       317
Joy Mountain 							       318
For a Monk Going West 					       319
Flat Mountain 						       320
Beyond the World 						       321
Beyond Light 							       322
Hut in Harmony 						       323
Lamenting the Civil War 					       324
Notes to Muso's Poems 					       325
List of Names in Muso's Poems 				       331
About the Author 						       337


He who stole my virginity : ShilabhaTTArikA

	Not in this volume, but
	trans. W. S. Merwin & Moussaieff Masson

He who stole my virginity
is the same man
I am married to
and these are the same
spring nights and
this is the same moment of
the jasmines opening
with winds just coming of age carrying
the scent of its flowers mingled
with pollen from Kadamba trees
to wake desire
in its nakedness
I am no different yet I
long with my heart
for the delicate
love-making back there under
the dense cane trees
by the bank of the river
Narmada in
the Vindhya mountains

attrib. ShilabhaTTArikA, woman poet
500- 1000 CE

online at

W.S. Merwin is one of America's leading poets. His prizes include the 2005
National Book Award for his collected poems, Migration, the Pulitzer Prize,
the Stevens Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and
Lannan Foundation.  He is the author of dozens of books of poetry and
translations. He lives in Hawaii, where he cultivates endangered palm

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This article last updated on : 2014 Jul 14