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The Joy of Reading - A Poem

This is one of my favourite poems. I found it many years ago, while backpacking. It was in a Chinese Calligraphy exhibition in Canada and I copied it down and have loved it ever since. I have a copy on the door of my study and I thought you might enjoy it, too.

The Joy of Reading

by Wen Cheng-Ming (1470 – 1559)
translated by Teresa Yu

Mountain air bathes in the shimmering light.
Water winds along the balustrade
Coming home from a spring excursion I am greeted by a light scented breeze.
Birds perching on boughs make fine company.
Fallen petals on water inspire poetic thoughts.
Enjoy the good years in life, youth passes quickly.
Nothing is greater than the joy of reading.
Outside the window let the grass grow green and lush if it may!

Mulberries and bamboos surround my cottage in happy profusion.
Into my quiet studio a ray of light creeps –
A long day of poetry chanting gives way to a cicada’s song.
Deep at night, candle flickers out, fireflies light my bed.
Lying below the northern window, I feel like the sage kings of old,
All because I have long realised the endless joy of reading.
The sound of my jade lute brings in a fine cool breeze.

Leaves rustle in the night courtyard.
Crickets sing. Peas burst into bloom over the fence.
Autumn comes to the woods unannounced.
All is hushed, and clear and calm –
Beside the bed, a lamp.
The joy of reading is a wondrous feeling.
Rising to dance to that I frolic with my shadow
Under the bright frosty moon!

The wood is bare of leaves,
The crags and rivers dry and desolate
In these I see an inner truth.
I read …………. shadows dance on the wall
I sing ………….. the snow falls and falls.
Over a lively fire, a pot of warm fragrant tea.
My heart is truly serene –
The joy of reading, where can it be found?
A few plum blossoms, the heart of Heaven and Earth.