On the River
- Poetry of Du Fu

《江上》

- Last updated: 2024-03-28 11:46:33

On the River by Du Fu
中文原文

江上日多雨,萧萧荆楚秋。

高风下木叶,永夜揽貂裘。

勋业频看镜,行藏独倚楼。

时危思报主,衰谢不能休。


English Translation

Each day upon the river falls cold rain;

The southern land in autumn looks forlorn,

The high wind blows down withered leaves again;

All night long I sit in my furs outworn.

No deeds achieved, in mirror oft I frown;

Unused for long, I lean on balustrade.

At this critical hour I’d serve the crown.

Though feeble, can I give up and evade?

“On the River ” is a poem in five lines composed by Du Fu in Kui Prefecture in the first year of the Dali era (766) of the Tang Dynasty.

The first four lines describe the scenery, expressing the traveler’s sadness for autumn; the second four lines express the feelings of the old minister’s sorrow for his country.

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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