To My Retired Friend Wei
- Poetry of Du Fu

《赠卫八处士》

- Last updated: 2024-04-18 23:54:35

To My Retired Friend Wei by Du Fu
中文原文

人生不相见,动如参与商。

今夕复何夕,共此灯烛光。

少壮能几时,鬓发各已苍。

访旧半为鬼,惊呼热中肠。

焉知二十载,重上君子堂。

昔别君未婚,儿女忽成行。

怡然敬父执,问我来何方。

问答乃未已,驱儿罗酒浆。

夜雨翦春韭,新炊间黄粱。

主称会面难,一举累十觞。

十觞亦不醉,感子故意长。

明日隔山岳,世事两茫茫。


English Translation

It is almost as hard for friends to meet

As for the morning and evening stars.

Tonight then is a rare event,

Joining, in the candlelight,

Two men who were young not long ago

But now are turning grey at the temples.

...To find that half our friends are dead

Shocks us, burns our hearts with grief.

We little guessed it would be twenty years

Before I could visit you again.

When I went away, you were still unmarried;

But now these boys and girls in a row

Are very kind to their father's old friend.

They ask me where I have been on my journey;

And then, when we have talked awhile,

They bring and show me wines and dishes,

Spring chives cut in the night-rain

And brown rice cooked freshly a special way.

...My host proclaims it a festival,

He urges me to drink ten cups --

But what ten cups could make me as drunk

As I always am with your love in my heart?

...Tomorrow the mountains will separate us;

After tomorrow-who can say?

Five-character-ancient-verse

one of Du Fu's later works

Why Chinese poems is so special?
The most distinctive features of Chinese poetry are: concision- many poems are only four lines, and few are much longer than eight; ambiguity- number, tense and parts of speech are often undetermined, creating particularly rich interpretative possibilities; and structure- most poems follow quite strict formal patterns which have beauty in themselves as well as highlighting meaningful contrasts.
How to read a Chinese poem?
Like an English poem, but more so. Everything is there for a reason, so try to find that reason. Think about all the possible connotations, and be aware of the different possibilities of number and tense. Look for contrasts: within lines, between the lines of each couplet and between successive couplets. Above all, don't worry about what the poet meant- find your meaning.

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