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曾幾《蚊蠅擾甚戲作》“Written in jest when much annoyed by mosquitoes and flies” by Zeng Ji (1084-1164)

黑衣小兒雨打, The brat in black hits against my window [like] rain,

斑衣小兒雷殷。 The brat with streaks rumbles over my bed [like] thunder.

良宵永晝作底用, Fair nights, long days: what good are they after all,

只與二子更飛。 With nothing but the two brats flying to and fro.

開尊匕箸須一洗, [When I] raise a wine cup, the spoon and chopsticks require a rinse;

破巻燈火尤相。 [When I] open a book, the lamp and fire create an even bigger nuisance.

從來所持白羽扇, The white-feathered fan that [I] have always held,

自許百萬猶能。 Boasts it repels [them] in their hundreds and thousands.

安知手腕為汝脱, How could I have known because of you my wrist would be disjointed?[1]

以小喻大眞成。 One who sees the great in the small would get truly cross.[2]

揮之使去定無策, Waving them away [I] settle on no plan;

葛帳十幅眠空。 Within ten layers of kudzu curtains [I] sleep in an empty hall.

朝喧暮鬨姑聽汝, [I] listen for now to your morning humming and evening buzzing,

坐待九月飛嚴[3] And sit waiting for the ninth month with harsh frost flying.

* From Zeng Ji 曾幾 (1084-1164), Chashan ji 茶山集 (Wenyuange yingyin Siku quanshu 文淵閣景印四庫全書, vol. 1136, Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1987), 3.11a-b:

[1] It is common in poetry to complain about the fatigue from trying to drive away mosquitoes with a fan, though the hyperbole about a disjointed wrist here is a little unusual.

[2] This line presumably associates the poet’s disappointment in the fan (the small) with a general criticism about making big promises without being able to keep them (the great).

[3] Red characters rhyme.

Album leaf on a mosquito-hunting spider, by Qian Xuan 錢選 (1235-1305)

Image credit: National Pa;ace Museum, Taipei


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