Du Fu Poetry 
    (Tu Fu)

The Eight Formations
Your achievements overshadowed
     any in the Three Kingdoms;
most famous of all was your design
     for the Eight Formations.

Against the riverís surge,
     they stand solid, immovable,
a monument to your lasting regret
     at failing to swallow up Wu.

tr. David Lunde
Chinese text

On Route from the Capital to Fengxian - 500 words

Behind the gates of the wealthy
food lies rotting from waste
Outside it's the poor
who lie frozen to death


zhu men jiu rou chou
lu you dong si gu


Chinese text
Full Chinese text

Moonlit Night
Tonight my wife must watch alone
    the full moon over Fu-zhou;
I think sadly of my sons and daughters far away,
too young to understand this separation
or remember our life in Chang'an.
In fragrant mist, her flowing hair is damp;
In clear moonlight, her jade-white arms are cold.
When will we lean at the open casement together
while the moonlight dries our shining tears?

tr. David Lunde
Chinese text

Ballad of the Old Cypress
In front of K'ung-ming Shrine
stands an old cypress,
With branches like green bronze
and roots like granite;

Its hoary bark, far round,
glistens with raindrops,
And blueblack hues, high up,
blend in with Heaven's:
Long ago Statesman, King
kept Time's appointment,
But still this standing tree has men's devotion;

United with the mists
of ghostly gorges,
Through which the moon brings cold
from snowy mountains.

(I recall near my hut
on Brocade River
Another Shrine is shared by
King and Statesman

On civil, ancient plains
with stately cypress:
The paint there now is dim,
windows shutterless. . .)

Wide, wide though writhing roots
maintain its station,
Far, far in lonely heights,
many's the tempest

When its hold is the strength
of Divine Wisdom
And straightness by the work of the Creator. . .

Yet if a crumbling Hall
needed a rooftree, Yoked herds would, turning heads,
balk at this mountain:

By art still unexposed all have admired it;
But axe though not refused,
who could transport it?

How can its bitter core deny ants lodging,
All the while scented boughs
give Phoenix housing?

Oh, ambitious unknowns,
sigh no more sadly:
Using timber as big
was never easy!

This poem was recited by the Poet Laureate of the United States Robert Pinsky to commemorate President Clinton's visit to China on PBS July 1998.

tr. David Hawks
Chinese text

Thoughts on an Ancient Site:
Birthplace of Wang Qiang
Through flocks of mountains, myriad valleys,
     I arrive in Jingmen,
where Ming-fei was born and bred--*
     the village is still there.

Once she left the crimson terraces,
     there was nothing but endless desert;
only her evergreen grave is left
     to face the twilight.

Portraits have recorded
     her spring-fresh face;
the tinkle of girdle pendants heralds
     her soul's vain return by moonlight.

For a thousand years the pipa
     has wailed in its alien tongue,
as if its strings bemoan in song
     her tragic tale of grief.

tr. David Lunde
pipa | Chinese text

The Temple of Zhuge Liang
Zhu-ge's great name
     hangs over the whole world;
the revered statesman's portrait
     awes with its sublimity.
The empire carved into thirds
     hindered his designs,
yet he soars through the ages,
     a lone feather in the sky.
He is brother to such greats
     as Yi Yin and Lu Shang;*
if he had established control,
     Xiao and Cao would be forgotten.
But the cycle had passed; Han fortunes
     could not be restored.
His military strategy a failure,
     his hopes dashed, his body perished.

tr. David Lunde
Chinese text

Poem for Wei Ba
Often a man's life is such
that he seldom sees his friends,
like the constellations Shen and Shang
which never share the same sky.
If not this evening, then what evening
should we share this lamp light?
How long can our youth and vigor last?
The hair at our temples is already gray.
We inquire about old acquaintances
to find that half are ghosts--
shocked cries betray
the torment of our hearts.
How could I have known
that it would be twenty years
before I again entered
your honored home.
When we parted last
you were yet unmarried;
now your sons and daughters
line up in a smiling row
to greet their father's friend.
They ask whence I have come
but before I can answer all questions
you chase them off
to bring wine and cups.
In the night rain, chives are cut
for the freshly steamed rice
mixed with yellow millet.
Saying how difficult it has been
for us to meet at last,
you pour ten cups in a row!
But even after ten cups
I'm not drunk, being so moved
by your lasting friendship.
Tomorrow we will be separated
by the peaks of mountains,
each of our worldly affairs
lost to the other's sight.

tr. David Lunde
Chinese text

Ballard of the Army Carts
Wagons rattling and banging,
horses neighing and snorting,
conscripts marching, each with bow and arrows at his hip,
fathers and mothers, wives and children, running to see them off--
so much dust kicked up you can't see Xian-yang Bridge!
And the families pulling at their clothes, stamping feet in anger,
blocking the way and weeping--
ah, the sound of their wailing rises straight up to assault heaven.
And a passerby asks, "What's going on?"
The soldier says simply, "This happens all the time.
From age fifteen some are sent to guard the north,
and even at forty some work the army farms in the west.
When they leave home, the village headman has to wrap their turbans for them;
when they come back, white-haired, they're still guarding the frontier.
The frontier posts run with blood enough to fill an ocean,
and the war-loving Emperor's dreams of conquest have still not ended.
Hasn't he heard that in Han, east of the mountains,
there are two hundred prefectures, thousands and thousands of villages,
growing nothing but thorns?
And even where there is a sturdy wife to handle hoe and plough,
the poor crops grow raggedly in haphazard fields.
It's even worse for the men of Qin; they're such good fighters
they're driven from battle to battle like dogs or chickens.
Even though you were kind enough to ask, good sir,
perhaps I shouldn't express such resentment.
But take this winter, for instance,
they still haven't demobilized the troops of Guanxi,
and the tax collectors are pressing everyone for land-fees--
land-fees!--from where is that money supposed to come?
Truly, it is an evil thing to bear a son these days,
it is much better to have daughters;
at least you can marry a daughter to the neighbor,
but a son is born only to die, his body lost in the wild grass.
Has my lord seen the shores of the Kokonor?
The white bones lie there in drifts, uncollected.
New ghosts complain and old ghosts weep,
under the lowering sky their voices cry out in the rain."

tr. David Lunde
Chinese text

A Second Farewell to Governor Yen Wu
at the FengJi Post Station
We have come far together, but here we must part;
the green hills vainly echo my feelings.
When will we again take wine cups in hand
to stroll as we did beneath last night's moon?
Every district sings sad songs at your leaving;
three reigns now you have served with distinction.
Now I must go back to my river village alone,
and alone live out the rest of my days.

tr. David Lunde
Chinese text

A Song of Painting: To General Cao Ba
You, General Cao Ba,
     descendant of Cao Cao,
now live as a peasant,
     a cold-door commoner.
Your ancestor's heroic age
     carved out kingdoms of old,
and its cultural brilliance, its style,
     still survive in your work.

To learn calligraphy
     you first studied Lady Wei;
your only regret was not surpassing
     the great Wang Xizhi .
You said, "Caught up in my painting,
     I give no thought to old age;
riches and rank are to me
     no more than clouds floating by."
Often summoned to court
     during the Kaiyuan period,
frequently you ascended the dais
     to receive the Emperor's praise.
In the Gallery of Famous Men
     the noble faces were fading;
going to work with your brush
     you brought back their freshness.
On the ministers' heads you repainted
     their hats of office,
at the waists of the fierce generals,
     their great feathered arrows.
The Duke of Bao and Duke of E--
     so lifelike their hair bristles--
stand grim, bold and heroic,
     as if in the midst of battle.

The late Emperor's imperial horse,
     Jade-Flower Dapple,
had been painted by artist after artist,
     but none could capture his essence.
One day he was led into the courtyard
     below the red steps of the palace;
standing there by the palace gates
     he embodied the wind of the plains.
At the Emperor's command
     you stretched white silk to paint on;
calling up all of your skill,
     you formed the image in your mind.
In a flash, from the nine-fold heavens,
     the true "dragon" emerged!
At one stroke, the horse paintings of ages
     were obliterated.
When the painting was taken up
     and hung above the throne,
the horse on the wall and that in the yard
     gazed proudly into each other's face.
Smiling, the Emperor hastened his aide
     to bring a handsome reward;
stable-boys and grooms stood long-faced,
     jealous of His Majesty's favor.

Your pupil Han Gan was long since
     shown all your techniques;
he too can paint horses,
     horses in every stance imaginable,
but Gan paints only the outer flesh,
     not the strength that lies beneath;
his brush would dampen the spirit
     of legendary Hualiu!

The General is a superb painter
     because he captures the essence.
In the past you often rendered
     likenesses of distinguished men;
in the present troubled times,
     uprooted and homeless,
you are reduced to painting portraits
     of humble passersby.

So desperate are your straits, you put up
     with the snubs of commoners--
never in the world
     has anyone been as poor as you!
But look at the lives of famous men
     throughout history--
they too were forced to deal
     with endless frustrations.

tr. David Lunde
Chinese text

A Woman of Quality
Matchless in breeding and beauty,
a fine lady has taken refuge
in this forsaken valley.
She is of good family, she says,
but her fortune has withered away;
now she lives as the grass and trees.
When the heartlands fell to the rebels
her brothers were put to death;
birth and position availed nothing--
she was not even allowed
to bring home their bones for burial.
The world turns quickly against
those who have had their day--
fortune is a lamp-flame
flickering in the wind.
Her husband is a fickle fellow
who has a lovely new woman.
Even the vetch-tree is more constant,
folding its leaves every dusk,
and mandarin ducks
always sleep with their mates.
But he has eyes only
for his new woman's smile,
and his ears are deaf
to his first wife's weeping.
High in the mountains
spring water is clear as truth,
but when it reaches the lowlands
it is muddied with rumor.
Her serving-maid returns
from selling her pearls;
she drags a creeper over
to cover holes in the roof.
The flowers the lady picks
are not for her hair,
and the handfuls of cypress
are a bitter stay against hunger.
Her pretty blue sleeves
are too thin for the cold;
as evening falls
she leans on the tall bamboo.

tr. David Lunde
Chinese text

Passing the Night at Headquarters
Clear autumn at headquarters,
     wu-tung trees cold beside the well;
I spend the night alone in the river city,
using up all of the candles.
Sad bugle notes sound through the long night
     as I talk to myself;
glorious moon hanging in mid-sky
but who looks?

The endless dust-storm of troubles
     cuts off news and letters;
the frontier passes are perilous,
travel nearly impossible.

I have already suffered ten years,
     ten years of turmoil and hardship;
now I am forced to accept a perch
     on this one peaceful branch.*

tr. David Lunde
Chinese text

Gazing at Mount Tai
How to describe Tai mountain?
Its green towers above all of Chi and Lu!
Here the Creator concentrated divine beauty;
its north and south sides split dark from dawn.
Chest pounding, you reach the birthplace of clouds;
bursting eyes fill with birds returning to nest.
Someday I must climb to the very top,
look down on all of the little mountains at once.

tr. David Lunde
Chinese text

Meeting Li GuiNian in the South
At the home of the Prince of Qi
     I have often seen you,
and in the hall of Cui Jiu,
     I have heard you sing.
Truly these southlands
     boast unrivalled scenery-
to see you once again
     when the flowers are falling.

tr. David Lunde
Chinese text

The Pitiful Young Prince
Hooded crows fly at night
     over the walls of Chang'an,
uttering harsh cries
     above Welcoming Autumn Gate,
then head for people's houses,
     pecking at the lofty roofs,
roofs beneath which high officials
     scurry to escape barbarians.
The golden whip is broken in two,
     the nine horses are run to death,*
but it is still not possible
     for all of royal blood to flee together...

In plain sight below his waist
     a precious ornament of blue coral,
the pitiful prince stands weeping
     at the corner of the road.
When I ask, he refuses to tell
     either name or surname;
he only speaks of his desperation,
     and begs to become my slave.
For a hundred days now
     he has lain hidden in brambles;
there is no whole skin left
     on his entire body.
But the sons and grandsons of Gao-zu
     all have the same noses-
the dragon-seed, naturally,
     differs from that of ordinary men.

Jackals and wolves in the city,
     dragons lurking in the wilds,
the prince had better take care
     of that thousand-tael body!*
I don't dare talk long here
     in plain view by the crossroads,
but for the sake of my prince
     I will stay for a moment.
Last night the east wind
     blew in the stench of blood,
and camels from the east
     filled the former Capital.*
The Shuo-fang veterans
     were known as skilled warriors,
they always seemed so fierce,
     but now how foolish they look!
It is rumored that the Son of Heaven
     has already abdicated,
but also that the Khan
     is lending his support,
that the men of Hua gashed their faces
     and begged to wipe out this disgrace.
Say nothing! Someone else
     may be hiding and listening.
Alas, Prince, you must be careful,
     stay on guard,
and may the spirits of the Five Tombs*
     watch over you always.

Chinese text

Song of Lovely Women
Third day, third month festival,
     and the air fresh with spring;
beside Serpentine Lake in Chang'an,
     many lovely women stroll.
Their appearance is elegant,
     their thoughts lofty and refined,
their complexions delicate,
     figures in perfect proportion.
Their embroidered silk gowns
     glisten with spring light;
golden peacocks and beasts of silver
     strut upon the fabric.
What is it that they wear
     upon their heads?
Jeweled headbands with kingfisher feathers,
     dangling to their hairlines.
And what is it that we see
     upon their backs?
Pearl-studded overskirts
     drawn tight at the waist.
Among them are kin of the Pepper-flower Chamber*      with its cloud-patterned curtains-
the Duchesses of Guo and Qin,
     honored with the names of nations!

A great roast of purple camel hump
     rises from a green cauldron,
and crystal plates gleam
     with heaps of white-scaled fish.
But the rhinoceros horn chopsticks,*
     long-sated, are slow to descend,
and the belled knife-handles
     dance vainly above the roast.
The flying steeds of the eunuchs
     hardly stir the dust,
as they bear in eight exotic dishes
     from the Imperial Kitchens.

Chinese text

View From a Height
Sharp wind, towering sky, apes howling mournfully;
untouched island, white sand, birds flying in circles.
Infinite forest, bleakly shedding leaf after leaf;
inexhaustible river, rolling on wave after wave.
Through a thousand miles of melancholy autumn, I travel;
carrying a hundred years of sickness, I climb to this terrace.
Hardship and bitter regret have frosted my temples--
and what torments me most? Giving up wine!

tr. David Lunde
Chinese text

Advent of Spring
The city has fallen: only the hills and rivers remain.
In Spring the streets were green with grass and trees.
Sorrowing over the times, the flowers are weeping.
The birds startled my heart in fear of departing.
The beacon fires were burning for three months,
A letter from home was worth ten thousand pieces of gold.
I scratch the scant hairs on my white head,
And vainly attempt to secure them with a hairpin.

Chinese text

Dreaming of Li Bai (1)
Separation by death must finally be choked down,
but separation in life is a long anguish,

Chiang-nan is a pestilential land;
no word from you there in exile.

You have been in my dreams, old friend,
as if knowing how much I miss you.

Caught in a net,
how is it you still have wings?

I fear you are no longer mortal;
the distance to here is enormous.

When your spirit came, the maples were green;
when it went, the passes were black.

The setting moon spills light on the rafters;
for a moment I think it's your face.

The waters are deep, the waves wide;
don't let the river gods take you.

tr. Mike O'Connor
Chinese text

Dreaming of Li Bai (2)
Clouds drifting the whole day;
a traveler traveling who never arrives.

Three nights you have been in my dreams;
as your friend, I knew your mind.

You say your return is always harrowing;
your coming, a hard coming;

Rivers, lakes, so many waves;
in your boat you fear overturning.

Going out the door, you scratch your white head
as if the purpose of your whole life was ruined,

The rich and high positioned fill the Capital,
while you, alone, are careworn and dejected.

Who says the net of heaven is cast wide?
Growing older, you only grow more preyed upon.

One thousand autumns, ten thousand years of fame,
are nothing after death.

tr. Mike O'Connor
Chinese text

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