A Song of Sobbing By the River
- Poetry of Du Fu


- Last updated: 2024-04-24 13:45:35

A Song of Sobbing By the River by Du Fu











English Translation

I am only an old woodsman, whispering a sob,

As I steal like a spring-shadow down the Winding River.

...Since the palaces ashore are sealed by a thousand gates --

Fine willows, new rushes, for whom are you so green?

...I remember a cloud of flags that came from the South Garden,

And ten thousand colours, heightening one another,

And the Kingdom's first Lady, from the Palace of the Bright Sun,

Attendant on the Emperor in his royal chariot,

And the horsemen before them, each with bow and arrows,

And the snowy horses, champing at bits of yellow gold,

And an archer, breast skyward, shooting through the clouds

And felling with one dart a pair of flying birds.

...Where are those perfect eyes, where are those pearly teeth?

A blood-stained spirit has no home, has nowhere to return.

And clear Wei waters running east, through the cleft on Dagger-Tower Trail,

Carry neither there nor here any news of her.

People, compassionate, are wishing with tears

That she were as eternal as the river and the flowers.

...Mounted Tartars, in the yellow twilight, cloud the town with dust.

I am fleeing south, but I linger-gazing northward toward the throne.


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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