GAZING DOWN AT THE DARK BLUE SEA(Author: Cao Cao)

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作者:曹操 (Author: Cao Cao, 3rd century)

东临碣石,east climb Jieshi mountain
以观沧海。 to look dark blue sea
水何澹澹,water how peaceful
山岛竦峙。island rise peak
树木丛生,forest tree crowd grow
百草丰茂。100 grass abundant lush
秋风萧瑟,autumn wind grievance cold
洪波涌起。flood wave surge rise
日月之行,sun moon of travel
若出其中。like coming out its center
星汉灿烂,star wide bright glorious
若出其里。 like coming out its within
幸甚至哉,lucky very arrive oh
歌以咏志 sing to chant ambition

Translation

I rode east and climbed the Jeishi Mountain
To look down at this dark blue sea,
At its vast water,
At its islands and jutting peaks.

The trees grow thick here,
While the grass is still so lush.
Cold autumn winds blow:
Towering waves surge forth in answer.

To me it’s as if the sun and moon both
Rise up from these waters.
And the brilliant band of stars?
They burst from its depths.

Oh, my good luck to have reached this place!
I sing, I shout my ambition.

Translation Notes:

Cao Cao was a brilliant war lord who became very powerful by the end of the Eastern Han dynasty. He was also an influential poet, though, unfortunately, only a few of his poems remain. He wrote this poem after one of his significant victories against the northern Wuhuan tribes. At the end of the second stanza, we write that the water surges forth “in answer,” and we translate the last two lines of the third stanza as a question and answer despite the fact that there are not question words in the original. We made this choice because we thought that the question and response best represented the dynamic nature of the original poem.

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