by Yun Sŏndo
Translation by Larry Gross
You ask how many friends I have? Water and stone, bamboo and pine.
The moon rising over the eastern hill is a joyful comrade.
Besides these five companions, what other pleasure should I ask?
I’m told clouds are nice, that is, their color; but often they grow dark.
I’m told winds are pleasing, that is, their sound, but they fade to silence;
So I say only water is faithful and neverending.
Why do flowers fade and die so soon after that glorious bloom?
Why does green grass curl to yellow after sending its spears so high?
Could it be that only stone stands strong against the elements?
Look at this, it isn’t a tree, and it isn‘t a grass either;
How can it stand so erect when its insides are empty?
Bamboo, I praise you in all seasons, standing green no matter what
In summer fragile flowers bloom; in autumn they lose their leaves.
But Mr. Pine, see how he disdains winter’s frost and snow—
See him thrust himself to heaven and down to earth’s eternal spring.
Though you’re small, you glide so high, blessing everyone with light;
What other flame can beam so brightly in the blackness of our night?
Moon, you watch but keep silent; isn’t that what a good friend does?