Faced with Spring

Via the Laudator:

Po Chü-i (772–846), Spring Outing (tr. Burton Watson):

    I mount my horse, ready to go out the gate;
    out the gate, pause in uncertainty,
    turn my head to speak to my wife,
    sure she must be puzzled by all these spring outings.
    I know I go on a lot of spring outings,
    but what can an old fellow do,
    when the ruddy face of youth is fading, fading,
    and white hairs continue and continue to appear?
    You have ten fingers—use them,
    tally up my friends for me.
    Say age one hundred is the outside limit—
    how many make it into their seventh decade?
    Now I am sixty-five
    and speeding downhill like a wheel on a slope.
    Supposing I should last to seventy,
    that leaves me only five springs more.
    Faced with spring, not to go out and enjoy it,
    one would have to be a fool!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ghp95134 says:


    The brush painting of a man riding a horse is an “impressionism” of the character for horse.

    Cf: http://www.pvcarswell.com/images/uploads/horse.jpg

  2. Ralph says:


  3. Theodorus says:

    Actually the image is comprised of a four-Chinese-character idiom, which means “success immediately upon arrival”.

  4. Gabriella says:

    Great translation of a beautiful poem :)
    It clearly exhudes a sad background to ‘optimistic’ words.

  5. Maltese says:

    NOTHING is so beautiful as spring—
    When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
    Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
    Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
    The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
    The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
    The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
    With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

    What is all this juice and all this joy?
    A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
    In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
    Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
    Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
    Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

    –Gerard Manley Hopkins (1918)

  6. ghp95134 says:

    …Actually the image is comprised of a four-Chinese-character idiom, which means “success immediately upon arrival”…..</i.

    Dunno about that … the main image in black of a man riding a horse is definitely an artistic rendition of the modern ideogram — which harkens back to the original ideogram for “horse.”

    illus 1: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/Ma_sigil.png
    illus 2: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Chinese_character_Shang_oracle_%E9%A6%AC_ma3_horse.gif
    illus 3: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/40/%E9%A6%AC-clerical.png


  7. Theodorus says:

    The four Chinese characters that make up the image are: ma (horse) dao (arrive), cheng (accomplish, achieve), gong (merit, work). While the horse is the character of “ma”, the rider with a sword is comprised of other three characters.

  8. Theodorus says:

    The link shows the four characters (the larger four characters, read from right to left, written in semi-cursive style).

  9. ghp95134 says:


    Thanks! Now I see it! Well … I can only clearly make out “ko” [Japanese for “kung”] in the rider. I can better read them in the greyed-out text in the background. Very inventive, indeed.

    I’ve seen similar treatments with “tatsu” [long/dragon] by a Korean artist (Seoul, 1989) who was famous for his single-stroke style; you can see the ideogram “dragon,” but the first thing you notice is that it LOOKS like a dragon.

    Again, many thanks!


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