Deep in a bamboo grove, I sit alone
Strumming my zither and chanting a poem
No one knows I'm here
Except for the moon, brightly shining down on me -- Wang Wei
Of the four seasons, it is autumn alone which can be felt before it arrives. After a windless, blisteringly hot summer, toward the end of August, the arrival of autumn can be felt as surely as the warmth of the sun.
And, how does it arrive?
Autumn arrives first by the sound of the wind (says the ancient poets). It is ever so slight, something heard more than seen-- the stirring in the wind of the leaves in the trees.
"Autumn is coming," it's all people talk about.
Nothing meets the eye
to demonstrate beyond a doubt
that autumn has come--
yet suddenly we are struck
just by the sound of the wind
--- Fujiwara Toshiyuki no Ason
立秋-- acoording to the ancient calendar, we are already in Autumn. Divided into 24 solar terms （節気), the ancient calendar is used throughout East Asia-- from Vietnam to China, from Korea to Japan. So no matter what the outside temperature is like, August 7 or 8th marks the start of autumn in that part of the world. The solar terms are further divided into 72候 and the first five days of "the start of autumn" are known as a "cool wind blows" 涼風至
And almost like clockwork, a cool wind has been blowing here in Los Angeles. Yesterday, sitting under a big oak tree waiting for Adonis to get let out of summer camp, I sat listening to the leaves rustling in the wind. At Heaven's Gate, I only wish I knew how to whistle (長嘯)
At Heaven’s Gate
I chant a poem
And the wind from 10,000 li away
Sweeps over me; washing away the worries of my heart
Ah, the trials of translating: 長嘯→ to whistle, or sing, to sigh or to chant, to sing or croon
Here is the great Sam Hamill's translation of the Wang Wei poem at top:
I sit alone in the bamboo dark
whistling and playing my zither.
And the woodsmen do not understand
...how this bright moon chose me to shine on.
And here is a Victorian translation, which was first published-- the illustrious Wang sensei tells me-- in the late 1890s:
Beneath the bamboo grove, alone,
I seize my lute and sit and croon,
No ear to hear me, save my own,
No eye to see me, save the moon.
--Herbert Allan Giles
The oars dip in silence, gentle
As the soft light over the waters
Or the ripples slowly spreading
From the shadow of the shore.
Far away the leaves are falling
Into an autumn that is you
And me, our lives gently touching,
Here and beneath the waters,
Like a moon and sky that sets
An evergreen blue.