Description of a Tidal Bore from “Seven Stimuli” by Mei Ch’Eng

Its urgent
thunder can be heard hundreds of furlongs away;
the river’s waters flow in reverse,
the ocean’s waters go upstream with the tide;
the mountains exhale and inhale vapors
all day and all night without cease.

Welling and swelling, the tidal race picks up speed,
its waves surge
and its billows rise.
At the very beginning,
it is a cascading
the downward swoop
of white egrets.
After it has progressed
a short while,
it becomes a vast expanse of dazzling whiteness,
a silk-white chariot drawn by white horses,
curtains and canopy unfurled.

The bore’s
waves surge
in nebulous confusion,
as though
the three regiments were
plunging into preparedness.
spreads out to the sides
and suddenly rears
airily and gracefully
the light chariot
of a commander marshalling his troops.

The bore is harnessed to six flood-dragons,
and follows close upon Great White, the god of the river.
It is high and mighty, whether resting or racing,
continuous and unbroken from front to back.
The waves are enormous, towering,
consecutive and recurring —
jos-jostling, ca-capering.
Row after row of stout bulwarks and ramparts,
as the ranks of an army.
with the stentorian and cacophonous roar,
they surge uncurbed across the breadths;
the fount of this flood is not to be stayed!

Observing both banks of the river,
we see there a
convulsive, boiling, brooding, seething,
troublous, roiling, jolting, heaving;
it smashes upward, flings boulders below.
There is, about it, something which resembles
a valiant, mighty warrior
bursting with rage
and completely undaunted.
It tramples revetments, bursts through ferry-crossings,
inundates inlets and courses coves,
then leaps its banks, spills over its dikes.

He who encounters it perishes;
that which blocks it is destroyed.

From: Mair, Victor H. (ed.), The Shorter Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature, 2000, Columbia University Press: New York, pp. 225-227.

Date: c140 BCE (original); 1988 (translation)

By: Mei Ch’eng (?-c140 BCE)

Translated by: Victor Henry Mair (1943- )

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