The poetry of a Swedish autumn (and a Chinese one)

We spent the weekend in the country in our drafty peasant cottage, and while the forest has settled into a dull mass of gray and brown and green, save for the rotting row boats tied up along the river and now suddenly visible, our yard was full of texture, of fallen crunchy yellow mottled leaves, of a towering sunflower still blossoming, of a crunch to the high grass already bowed low by the autumn.

The house was cold too, though it warmed well with radiators and a fire. We’ve had a mild fall here in Sweden, which is not good, really, because it means lots of days in the 40s (5-10 degrees celsius) with no sun. I happened to read a book of poetry this weekend, and lo and behold, the Chinese poet in the eighth century had a country cottage outside of the city.

This is Wang Wei, translated by Vikram Seth:

Autumn Nightfall at my Place in the Hills

In the empty mountains, after recent rain,
A sense of Fall comes with the evening air.
The moon is bright and shines between the pines.
Over the stones the spring-fed stream runs clear.
Bamboos rustle: washerwomen go home.
Lotuses stir: fishing boats make their way.
At its own will, the scent of Spring has gone.
But you, ‘O prince of friends,’ of course may stay.


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