A visit to the temple in autum

My dear friend, is your heart now peaceful?
Are you feeling quite free and strong?
“Was a Tang Dynasty princess ever joyous?”
To speak the truth is never wrong.

See those clumps of cypress,
So ancient, noble and calm?
Come, let’s walk past them. Tell me stories.
If you wish, hold my arm.

Emperors pass. Dowagers die.
Armies leave the unbeamed halls.
A girl of eight once gazed in wonder here:
Such spacious grounds, such distant walls.
Some middle harmomy splendid music, perhaps.
The Temple of Heaven echoes in its immensity.
The cypress quietly lives on, meanwhile,
Unmoved by the obscure charms of history.

Brian Devlin
Kuala Lumpur
November 11, 2000

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