If errare humanum est, then I must be human. A few weeks ago I was pulling together a public lecture out of class notes and scattered photocopies, thinking mostly about how to translate a marvelous descriptive passage about dragging boats upstream and through brush in eighth-century Hunan, and credited the poem to the wrong guy. It was by Shen Quanqi 沈全期 (656-729), not Song Zhiwen 宋之問 (656-710), as I realized today when I looked the poem up again in a proper book. I hope nobody else is misled by my goof. I rather doubt anybody will notice. The poem is “Traveling from Changle Commandery Upstream to White Peak, Then Descending to Chenzhou” 自昌樂郡泝流至白石嶺下行入郴州 and reads in part:












This mountain lies on the border of China and alien parts,

Steep as the sky and boundless in its breadth.  

The Grand Historian missed it in his survey of the realm.

The Great Yu neglected to pierce it in his labors.

A current from the north trickles out at the south,

Crowded peaks yield to huddled ravines.

Speeding waves leap up like lightning-flashes,

Crashing stones land like thunderclaps. 

On the banks subsist trees of Pan Gu’s age,

In the cracks grow herbs for Shen Nong’s use….

Dangling creepers border the smooth slope,

The vault of heaven is hung with long ropes.

Blocking thickets impede all movement:

Encountering a weir, each struggles forward.

Our difficulty is such that no time is left to eat,

Till day’s end brings darkness no leisure to moor the boats.

Poling through the rapids is cause enough for fear,

Stone stairways no reason for displeasure.

We travel between mountain and water, 

The rapids perilous like nothing seen before. 

How can all this be left up to seeing and hearing?

I write it down for conveyance to the capital.