Du Fu English Translations
Click on the title of each poem for the text in Chinese characters, pinyin, gloss, notes and references.
Autumn Meditations (1)
Jade dew withers and wounds the groves of maple trees,
On Wu mountain, in Wu gorge, the air is dull and drear.
On the river surging waves rise to meet the sky,
Above the pass wind and cloud join the earth with darkness.
Chrysanthemum bushes open twice, weeping for their days,
A lonely boat, a single line, my heart is full of home.
Winter clothes everywhere are urgently cut and measured,
Baidicheng above, the evening's driven by beating on stones.
Autumn Meditations (2)
Over Kuizhou's lonely wall, the setting sun slants,
Every day I follow the Plough to look to the capital city.
I hear an ape; the third call really makes tears fall,
Undertaking a mission, in vain I follow the eighth month raft.
The muralled ministry's incense stove is far from my hidden pillow,
The mountain tower's white battlements hide the sad reed flutes.
Just look at the moonlight on the creepers that cover the stones,
Already in front of the islet, the rushes and reed flowers shine!
Autumn Meditations (3)
A mountain suburb of a thousand homes in the quiet morning light,
All day I sit by the river in my tower on the green hill.
For two nights the fishermen have stayed there floating, floating,
In the clear autumn still the swallows fly and fly.
Kuang Heng submitted memorials; I've won little praise,
Liu Xiang passed on the classics; my wishes are not realised.
The schoolmates of my early years mostly are not poor,
In the five tomb towns their furs and horses light and fat.
Autumn Meditations (4)
I've heard them say that Chang'an seems like in a game of chess,
A hundred years of world events have caused unbearable pain.
The palaces of the noblemen all have their new masters,
Civil and military dress and caps are not like those before.
Straight north over mountain passes, gongs and drums ring out,
Conquering the west, carts and horses, feather-hurried dispatches.
The fish and dragons are still and silent, the autumn river cold,
A peaceful life in my homeland always in my thoughts.
Autumn Meditations (5)
Penglai imperial palace faces the southern hill,
A golden stem to catch the dew is high up in the sky.
Gazing west, the Queen Mother descends at the Jade Lake,
From the east, Han pass is filled with purple vapour.
Like shifting cloud, the pheasant tail screens of the palace open,
Bathed in sun of dragon scales, I know the holy face.
Now I lie by this cold river, amazed the year's so late,
How many times by the blue chains was I there in the morning court?
Autumn Meditations (6)
The mouth of the Qutang Gorge, the bank of the Bending River,
Ten thousand miles of wind and mist join them in pale autumn.
Through Calyx Hall's hidden passage the imperial aura passed,
Now the little Lotus Park is filled with border sorrows.
Pearls on curtains, embroidery on pillars, around the yellow cranes,
From brocade hawsers and ivory masts rise the white gulls.
I turn my head, sad now for the place of song and dance,
Qin has been since olden days the land of emperors.
Autumn Meditations (7)
The waters of the Kunming Lake were made in the time of Han,
Banners and flags of the martial emperor are still in my mind's eye.
The weaver girl's loom and thread are idle beneath the night's moon,
The stone whale's scales and armour move in the autumn wind.
Waves toss the wild rice seeds, black clouds sink,
Dew chills the lotus pod, red powder falls.
Between the passes at the end of the sky only birds can travel,
Rivers and lakes fill this land; there's one old fisherman.
Autumn Meditations (8)
From Kunwu, Yusu river winds round and round,
Purple Tower mountain's shadow enters Meipi lake.
Fragrant rice; pecking; leaving surplus; parrots; grains;
Emerald wutong; perching; growing old; phoenixes; branches.
Beautiful women gather green feathers, talk to each other in spring,
Immortal companions share a boat, move on in the evening.
My coloured brush in olden days captured the image of life,
My white head drones and gazes, bitterly hanging low.
Ballad of the Ancient Cypress
Before Kongming's shrine stands an ancient cypress,
Its branches are like green bronze, its roots just like stone.
The frosted bark, slippery with rain, is forty spans around,
Its blackness blends into the sky two thousand feet above.
Master and servant have each already reached their time's end,
The tree, however, still remains, receiving men's devotion.
Clouds come and bring the air of Wuxia gorge's vastness,
The moon comes out, along with the cold of snowy mountain whiteness.
I think back to the winding road, east of Brocade Pavilion,
Where the military master and his lord of old share a hidden temple.
Towering that trunk, those branches, on the ancient plain,
Hidden paintings, red and black, doors and windows empty.
Spreading wide, coiling down, though it holds the earth,
In the dim and distant heights are many violent winds.
That which gives it its support must be heaven's strength,
The reason for its uprightness, the creator's skill.
If a great hall should teeter, wanting rafters and beams,
Ten thousand oxen would turn their heads towards its mountain's weight.
Its potential unrevealed, the world's already amazed,
Nothing would stop it being felled, but what man could handle it?
Its bitter heart cannot avoid the entry of the ants,
Its fragrant leaves have always given shelter to the phoenix.
Ambitious scholars, reclusive hermits- neither needs to sigh;
Always it's the greatest timber that's hardest to put to use.
The sky's water has fallen, and autumn clouds are thin,
The western wind has blown ten thousand li.
This morning's scene is good and fine,
Long rain has not harmed the land.
The row of willows begins to show green,
The pear tree on the hill has little red flowers.
A hujia pipe begins to play upstairs,
One goose flies high into the sky.
Swift wind, heaven high, an ape's cry of grief,
At the islet of clear white sand, birds circle round.
Endlessly, trees shed leaves, rustling, rustling down,
Without cease, the great river surges, surges on.
Ten thousand miles in sorrowful autumn, always someone's guest,
A hundred years full of sickness, I climb the terrace alone.
Suffering troubles, I bitterly regret my whitening temples,
Frustratingly I've had to abandon my cup of cloudy wine.
After the battle, many new ghosts cry,
The solitary old man worries and grieves.
Ragged clouds are low amid the dusk,
Snow dances quickly in the whirling wind.
The ladle's cast aside, the cup not green,
The stove still looks as if a fiery red.
To many places, communications are broken,
I sit, but cannot read my books for grief.
For Hua Qing
In Jincheng, music of silk and flutes mixes together all day,
Half goes to the river breeze, half goes to the clouds.
Music such as this should only go to heaven above,
In this human world, how many times can it be heard?
Four Rhymes to See Off Duke Yan Again at Fengji Station
After long escort, from now on we part,
Green mountains: in vain I repeat my emotion.
What day will we grasp the cup again?
Last night we travelled together under the moon.
In each region, you are eulogised and cherished,
In three reigns old and new you have been honoured.
I return alone to my riverside village,
To live the last of life in solitude.
In Abbot Zan's Room at Dayun Temple: Four Poems (1)
My heart is in a world of water and crystal,
My clothes are damp in this time of spring rains.
Through the gates I slowly walk to the end,
The great court the appointed tranquil space.
I reach the doors- they open and shut again,
Now strikes the bell- the meal time has arrived.
This cream will help one's nature strengthen and grow,
The diet gives support in my decline.
We've grasped each other's arms so many days,
And opened our hearts without shame or evasion.
Golden orioles flit across the beams,
Purple doves descend from lattice screens.
Myself, I think I've found a place that suits,
I walk by flowers at my own slow pace.
Tangxiu lifts me from my sickly state,
And smiling, asks me to write a poem.
In Abbot Zan's Room at Dayun Temple: Four Poems (2)
Fine green silk shoes,
Bright white cotton scarves,
Deep in storage for the elders,
Fetched to wear upon my body.
I see myself as old and dull,
How can our friendship stay so fresh?
Daolin's talents exceed the age,
Huiyuan's virtue's superhuman.
Rain-drenched bamboo by the eaves at dusk;
Wind in green celery at the well;
The sky dark, I face a mural,
Most feeling the damp of the dragon's scales.
In Abbot Zan's Room at Dayun Temple: Four Poems (3)
The lamplight shines on my sleeplessness,
My mind clear, I smell the splendid incense.
Deep in the night, the hall rears up high,
The wind stirs, and gold is heard to clank.
The black sky masks the springtime court,
To the pure earth clings a hidden fragrance.
The Jade Rope wheels round and is cut,
The iron phoenix seems about to soar.
Sanskrit sometimes flows out from the temple,
The lingering bells still echo round my bed.
Tomorrow morning in the fertile field,
I'll bitterly behold the yellow dirt.
In Abbot Zan's Room at Dayun Temple: Four Poems (4)
The boy draws shining water from the well,
He nimbly lifts the bucket to his hand.
He sprinkles water without soaking the earth,
And sweeps so well as if no broom had passed.
The rosy dawn again lights the pagoda,
The clearing mist lifts from the higher windows.
Leaning blossoms cover over the path,
Dancing willow leaves reach down to the steps.
I'm driven by these troublesome affairs,
Retirement from the world must be put off.
We've met and talked, our deepest hearts agreeing,
How can our mouths be forced completely shut?
I say goodbye and fetch my riding crop,
Parting for now, I turn my head at the last.
There's so much mud that can defile a man,
Just listen to all the dogs throughout the land.
Although I cannot get free from this yoke,
I'll sometimes come to rest from all the bustle.
Your presence, Abbot, acts just like white snow,
How can I be upset to grasp what's hot?
Jueju (Enjoying Flowers Walking Alone on a Riverbank, No. 5 of 7)
Before Abbot Huang's pagoda, river water flows east,
In the brightness of spring, lazily lean into the gentle breeze.
One clump of peach blossom's opened, no-one to own it,
Is dark or light red more to be loved?
Jueju (Enjoying Flowers Walking Alone on a Riverbank, No. 6 of 7)
At Huang Si's house, flowers fill the path,
Myriad blossoms press the branches low.
Constantly dancing butterflies stay to play,
Unrestrained, the lovely orioles cry.
Jueju Free Mood, No. 3 of 9 (I Know Well That My Thatched Hut)
I know well that my thatched hut is very low and small,
Because of that, the swallows on the river often come.
The bits of mud they bring in their mouths get into my zither and books,
And trying to catch the flying insects, they drive them into me.
Jueju Free Mood, No. 7 of 9 (The Path is Paved With Poplar Catkins)
The path is paved with poplar catkins, a carpet of white grain,
Lotus leaves on the little stream are piled like green coins.
Among the roots of new bamboo, sprouts that no man has seen,
On the sand nearby, a duckling sleeps beside its mother.
Jueju, No. 1 of 2 (In Late Sun, the River and Hills are Beautiful)
In late sun, the river and hills are beautiful,
The spring breeze bears the fragrance of flowers and grass.
The mud has thawed, and swallows fly around,
On the warm sand, mandarin ducks are sleeping.
Jueju, No. 2 of 2 (The River's Blue, The Bird a Perfect White)
The river's blue, the bird a perfect white,
The mountain green with flowers about to blaze.
I've watched the spring pass away again,
When will I be able to return?
Jueju, No. 3 of 4 (Two Golden Orioles Sing in the Green Willows)
Two golden orioles sing in the green willows,
A row of white egrets against the blue sky.
The window frames the western hills' snow of a thousand autumns,
At the door is moored, from eastern Wu, a boat of ten thousand li.
Many People Come to Visit and Bring Wine After I Fell Off My Horse, Drunk
I, Du Fu, the duke's elderly guest,
Finished my wine, drunkenly sang, and waved a golden halberd.
I mounted my horse and suddenly remembered the days of my youth,
The flying hooves sent stones pouring down into Qutang gorge.
Baidicheng's city gates are beyond the water's clouds,
Bending over, I plunged straight down eight thousand feet.
Whitewashed battlements passed like lightning, the purple reins were loose,
Then east, I reached the level ridge, out past heaven's cliff.
River villages and country halls vied to enter my eyes,
The whip hung down, the bridle drooped, I reached the crimson road.
All the ten thousand people amazed by my silver head,
I trusted to the riding and shooting skills of my rosy-cheeked youth.
How could I know that bursting its chest, hooves chasing the wind,
That racing horse, red with sweat, breathing spurts of jade,
Would unexpectedly take a tumble and end up injuring me?
In human life, taking pleasure often leads to shame.
That's why I'm feeling sad, lying on quilts and pillows,
Being in the sunset of my life only adds to the bother.
When I knew you'd come to visit, I wanted to hide my face,
With a bramble stick I manage to rise, leaning on a servant.
Then, after we've finished talking, we open our mouths and laugh,
Giving me support, you help to sweep by the clear stream's bend.
Wine and meat are piled up like mountains once again,
The feast starts: sad strings and brave bamboo sound out.
Together, we point to the western sun, not to be granted us long,
Noise and exclamations, then we tip the cup of clear wine.
Why did you have to hurry your horses, coming to ask after me?
Don't you remember Xi Kang, who nourished life and got killed?
Meeting Li Guinian South of the River
In Prince Qi's mansion house, I met you often,
By Cui Jiu's hall, I heard you several times.
Truly the landscape south of the river is good,
I meet you again in the season of falling blossom.
The moon shines in Fuzhou tonight,
In her chamber, she watches alone.
I pity my distant boy and girl-
They don't know why she thinks of Chang'an.
Her cloud-like hair is sweet with mist,
Her jade arms cold in the clear moonlight.
When shall we lean in the empty window,
Together in brightness, and tears dried up?
Night in the Pavilion
At year's end, yin and yang hurry the shortened day,
At sky's end, frost and snow clear the frozen night.
Fifth watch: the drum and horn sound out mournful and strong,
Three gorges: the river of stars casts its trembling shadow.
Countryside cries from a thousand homes hearing news of the fighting,
Barbaric songs here and there rise from fishers and woodsmen.
Sleeping Dragon and Leaping Horse both ended in yellow dirt;
Waiting for news of worldly affairs brings me useless grief.
Nocturnal Reflections While Travelling
Gentle breeze on grass by the shore,
The boat's tall mast alone at night.
Stars fall to the broad flat fields,
Moon rises from the great river's flow.
Have my writings not made any mark?
An official should stop when old and sick.
Fluttering from place to place I resemble,
A gull between heaven and earth.
Official at Stone Moat Village
At dusk, I stopped to rest at Stone Moat village,
An officer came that night to capture men.
The old man escaped by climbing over the wall,
The old wife went to look outside the door.
How angrily the officer now shouted,
How bitterly the wife did weep out loud!
I heard the words the wife was sending forth:
"Three sons of mine were sent to defend Yecheng.
From one of my sons, a letter has arrived,
The other two have recently died in battle.
The one who survived has kept alive for now,
The dead ones though have met their final end.
Inside this house, there are no people left,
There's just a grandson suckling on the breast.
The grandson's mother also cannot go,
She goes about without a skirt intact.
Although I'm an old woman with failing strength,
I ask you to take me with you tonight.
If you should need workers at Heyang,
I can prepare the morning meal for you."
Her voice then died away into the night,
I seemed to hear her sob and whimper still.
At dawn, before I set upon the road,
It's only from the old man that I part.
On Yueyang Tower
Of old I heard of the waters of Dongting lake,
Now I've climbed to the top of Yueyang tower.
Here Wu and Chu are split to east and south,
Here heaven and earth are floating day and night.
From family and friends comes not a single word,
Old and sick, I have one solitary boat.
War horses are riding north of the mountain pass,
I lean on the railing as tears flow down.
The moon's reflected on the river a few feet away,
A lantern shines in the night near the third watch.
On the sand, egrets sleep, curled up peacefully,
Behind the boat I hear the splash of jumping fish.
Parting from Abbot Zan
The hundred rivers flow east every day,
The traveller keeps on moving, without rest.
My life is one of bitterness and drift,
What time will they finally reach their end?
Abbot Zan, learned in Buddhist teaching,
Banished from the capital to here.
Still we're bothered by these earthly cares,
Reflected in our lean and haggard faces.
We stood one morning with willow twigs in hand;
The beans sprouted; then rain; then they ripened again.
The body floats along just like a cloud,
What limit can there be, to south or north?
I meet my old friend in a foreign region,
Newly happy, I write what's in my breast.
The sky is long, the fortified pass is cold,
At the year's end, hunger and chill pursue me.
The desert wind blows my travelling clothes,
I'm ready to leave and journey into the sunset.
The horse neighs, remembering its old stable,
Returning birds have all now folded their wings.
The places where we used to meet and part,
Thorns and brambles have quickly covered over.
We look at each other, both in years of decline;
Leaving or staying, we each must do our best.
Qiang Village (1)
Red clouds tower in the west,
The sun is sinking on the plain.
A sparrow chirps on the wicker gate,
I return from a thousand li away.
My wife and children are shocked to see me,
Then calm themselves and wipe their tears.
I floated through this disordered life,
By chance I have managed to return alive.
The neighbours all lean over the wall,
And they as well are sighing and sobbing.
Late at night we bring out candles,
And face each other as in a dream.
Qiang Village (2)
I'm late in years, and only marking time,
Returning home, I find but little joy.
My darling son now will not leave my knee,
He's scared that I will go away again.
I remember when we used to seek the coolth,
And wound between the trees beside the pool.
The soughing and sighing of the north wind's strong,
I'm thinking of a hundred different worries.
At least I know the millet harvest's good,
Already I hear the grain press trickle.
For now I have enough to pour and drink,
I use it to get comfort near the end.
Qiang Village (3)
The flock of chickens starts to call wildly,
As guests arrive, the chickens begin to fight.
I drive the chickens up into the tree,
And now I hear the knock on the wicker gate.
Four or five elders from the village,
Ask how long and far I have been travelling.
Each of them brings something in his hands,
We pour the clear and thick wine in together.
They apologise because it tastes so thin,
There's no-one left to tend the millet fields.
Conscription still continues without end,
The children are campaigning in the east.
I ask if I can sing a song for the elders,
The times so hard, I'm ashamed by these deep feelings.
I finish the song, look to heaven and sigh,
Everyone around is freely weeping.
Receiving a Guest
South of my hut, north of my hut, all is spring water,
A flock of gulls is all I see come each day.
The floral path has never been swept for a guest,
Today for the first time the rough gate opens for the gentleman.
Far from the market, my food has little taste,
My poor home can offer only stale and cloudy wine.
Consent to have a drink with my elderly neighbour,
At the fence I'll call him, then we'll finish it off.
Sighs of Autumn Rain (1)
In autumn rain, the grasses rot and die,
Below the steps, the jueming's colour is fresh.
Full green leaves cover the stems like feathers,
And countless flowers bloom like golden coins.
The cold wind, moaning, blows against you fiercely,
I fear that soon you'll find it hard to stand.
Upstairs the scholar lets down his white hair,
He faces the wind, breathes the fragrance, and weeps.
Sighs of Autumn Rain (2)
Ceaseless wind and lengthy rain swirl together this autumn,
The four seas and eight deserts are covered by one cloud.
A horse going, an ox coming, cannot be distinguished,
How now can the muddy Jing and clear Wei be told apart?
The standing grain begins to sprout, the millet's ears turn black,
Farmers and the farmers' wives have no hopeful news.
In the city, a bucket of rice can cost a silken quilt,
And both the buyer and seller have to agree the bargain is fair.
Sighs of Autumn Rain (3)
In Chang'an, who notices the cloth-gowned scholar?
Locked behind his gate and guarding his walls.
The old man doesn't go out, the weeds grow tall,
Children blithely rush through wind and rain.
The rustling rain hastens the early cold,
And geese with wet wings find high flying hard.
This autumn we've had no glimpse of the white sun,
When will the mud and dirt become dry earth?
Song of My Cottage Unroofed By Autumn Gales
In the eighth month autumn's high winds angrily howl,
And sweep three layers of thatch from off my house.
The straw flies over the river, where it scatters,
Some is caught and hangs high up in the treetops,
Some floats down and sinks into the ditch.
The urchins from the southern village bully me, weak as I am;
They're cruel enough to rob me to my face,
Openly, they carry the straw into the bamboo.
My mouth and lips are dry from pointless calling,
I lean again on my cane and heave a sigh.
The wind soon calms, and the clouds turn the colour of ink;
he autumn sky has turned completely black.
My ancient cotton quilt is cold as iron,
My darling children sleep badly, and kick it apart.
The roof leaks over the bed- there's nowhere dry,
The rain falls thick as hemp, and without end.
Lost amid disorder, I hardly sleep,
Wet through, how can I last the long nights!
If I could get a mansion with a thousand, ten thousand rooms,
A great shelter for all the world's scholars, together in joy,
Solid as a mountain, the elements could not move it.
Oh! If I could see this house before me,
I'd happily freeze to death in my broken hut!
Song of the Wagons
The wagons rumble and roll,
The horses whinny and neigh,
The conscripts each have bows and arrows at their waists.
Their parents, wives and children run to see them off,
So much dust's stirred up, it hides the Xianyang bridge.
They pull clothes, stamp their feet and, weeping, bar the way,
The weeping voices rise straight up and strike the clouds.
A passer-by at the roadside asks a conscript why,
The conscript answers only that drafting happens often.
"At fifteen, many were sent north to guard the river,
Even at forty, they had to till fields in the west.
When we went away, the elders bound our heads,
Returning with heads white, we're sent back off to the frontier.
At the border posts, shed blood becomes a sea,
The martial emperor's dream of expansion has no end.
Have you not seen the two hundred districts east of the mountains,
Where thorns and brambles grow in countless villages and hamlets?
Although there are strong women to grasp the hoe and the plough,
They grow some crops, but there's no order in the fields.
What's more, we soldiers of Qin withstand the bitterest fighting,
We're always driven onwards just like dogs and chickens.
Although an elder can ask me this,
How can a soldier dare to complain?
Even in this winter time,
Soldiers from west of the pass keep moving.
The magistrate is eager for taxes,
But how can we afford to pay?
We know now having boys is bad,
While having girls is for the best;
Our girls can still be married to the neighbours,
Our sons are merely buried amid the grass.
Have you not seen on the border of Qinghai,
The ancient bleached bones no man's gathered in?
The new ghosts are angered by injustice, the old ghosts weep,
Moistening rain falls from dark heaven on the voices' screeching."
Spring Night in the Left Office
Flowers in shadow, palace wall at dusk,
Chirping birds are flying back to roost.
Stars move above the ten thousand doors;
The moon is big nearing the nine heavens.
Not sleeping, I hear a golden key;
In the wind, I think there are jade pendants.
Tomorrow morning, I have to present a memorial,
Again and again, I ask about the night.
The country is broken, though hills and rivers remain,
In the city in spring, grass and trees are thick.
Moved by the moment, a flower's splashed with tears,
Mourning parting, a bird startles the heart.
The beacon fires have joined for three months now,
Family letters are worth ten thousand pieces.
I scratch my head, its white hairs growing thinner,
And barely able now to hold a hairpin.
Staying Overnight with Abbot Zan
How did your tin-edged cane get here?
The autumn wind's already sighing.
The rain's laid waste the great court's chrysanthemums,
And frost has felled half the pond's lotuses.
Banished, you don't renounce your nature,
In limbo, you don't depart from Chan.
Now we've met, we can spend all night together,
The Gansu moon shines round upon us.
The cows and sheep are moving slowly down,
Each villager has shut his wicker gate.
The wind and moon disturb the clear night,
This landscape of rivers and hills is not my homeland.
A spring flows from the stones of a darkening cliff,
The autumn dew drips on the grass's roots.
My white head is within the brightness of the lamp,
What need for the flower to flourish so?
Taking Down a Trellis
The sticks I tied already wither and fall,
The pumpkin leaves are getting sparse and thin.
It's lucky that the white flowers fully grew,
You have to help the green vines fade away.
There's no end to the sound of insects in autumn,
Whatever's in the minds of the sparrows at dusk?
Now, the world is one of cold and waste;
Human life has its beginning too.
The Solitary Goose
The solitary goose does not drink or eat,
It flies about and calls, missing the flock.
No-one now remembers this one shadow,
They've lost each other in the myriad layers of cloud.
It looks into the distance: seems to see,
It's so distressed, it thinks that it can hear.
Unconsciously, the wild ducks start to call,
Cries of birds are everywhere confused.
Thinking of Li Bai at the End of the Sky
Cold wind rises at the end of the sky,
What thoughts occupy the gentleman's mind?
What time will the wild goose come?
The rivers and lakes are full of autumn's waters.
Literature and worldly success are opposed,
Demons exult in human failure.
Talk together with the hated poet,
Throw a poem into Miluo river.
Thinking of My Brothers on a Moonlit Night
The army drums cut off human travel,
A lone goose sounds on the borderland in autumn.
Tonight we start the season of White Dew,
The moon is just as bright as in my homeland.
My brothers are spread all throughout the land,
No home to ask if they are living or dead.
The letters we send always go astray,
And still the fighting does not cease.
I remember the temple, this route I've travelled before,
I recall the bridge as I cross it again.
It seems the hills and rivers have been waiting,
The flowers and willows all are selfless now.
The field is sleek and vivid, thin mist shines,
On soft sand, the sunlight's colour shows it's late.
All the traveller's sorrow fades away,
What better place to rest than this?
Two Verses on the Yellow River
On the north bank of the Yellow River, west of the sea, is an army,
Hammered drums and sounded bells are heard beneath the sky.
The armoured horses cry out loud, I cannot tell their number,
The high-nosed tribe of Hu are moving in great numbers.
On the western bank of the Yellow River lies my own Sichuan,
I yearn to do my duty and provide for my home, without millet.
I wish I could expel the horde in honour of my king,
And for one book or chariot I'd abandon gold and jade.
Viewing the Plain
White snow lies on the western hills by the three walled cities,
To the south, from the clear river's bank, stretches the thousand li bridge.
In this world of war and confusion, I'm cut off from my brothers,
Standing alone at the end of the sky, I weep for distant places.
Past my prime, all I have to offer is this sick body,
I have no trickle or mote of strength with which to repay the emperor.
On my horse, outwith the city, at times I gaze afar,
I cannot bear our condition, which daily grows more desolate.
Welcome Rain on a Spring Night
The good rain knows its season,
When spring arrives, it brings life.
It follows the wind secretly into the night,
And moistens all things softly, without sound.
On the country road, the clouds are all black,
On a riverboat, a single fire bright.
At dawn one sees this place now red and wet,
The flowers are heavy in the brocade city.
Winding River (1)
Each piece of flying blossom leaves spring the less,
I grieve as myriad points float in the wind.
I watch the last ones move before my eyes,
And cannot have enough wine pass my lips.
Kingfishers nest by the little hall on the river,
Unicorns lie at the high tomb's enclosure.
Having studied the world, one must seek joy,
For what use is the trap of passing honour?
Winding River (2)
I come back from the court each day and pawn some spring clothing,
Every day I return to the river as drunk as I can be.
I have many debts for wine all over the place,
For men to live to seventy has always been unusual.
I see the butterflies go deeper and deeper between the flowers,
And dragonflies in leisured flight between drops of water.
As we're told, passing time is always on the move,
So little time to know each other: we should not be apart.
Written for Scholar Wei
We've lived our lives and have not seen each other,
We've been just like the stars of Shen and Shang.
Oh what an evening is this evening now,
Together in the light of this one lamp?
Young and vigorous for so short a time,
Already now we both have greying temples.
We ask of old friends, half of them now dead,
Your exclamation stirs up my own heart.
We did not know it would be twenty years,
Before we met again inside your hall.
When we parted then, you were unmarried,
Suddenly boys and girls come in a row.
Happy and content, they respect their father's friend,
Asking me from which direction I come.
And even before the question has been answered,
The boys and girls have gone to fetch the wine.
In the rainy night, they cut spring chives,
And mix the fresh cooked rice with golden millet.
My host says it's been hard for us to meet,
One draught's repeated, now becomes ten cups.
After ten cups, still I am not drunk,
It's your lasting friendship which is moving.
Tomorrow we'll be sundered by the hills,
Just two in a boundless world of human affairs.