A Song of a Prince Deposed
- Poetry of Du Fu


- Last updated: 2024-04-24 13:47:51

A Song of a Prince Deposed by Du Fu















English Translation

Along the wall of the Capital a white-headed crow

Flies to the Gate where Autumn Enters and screams there in the night,

Then turns again and pecks among the roofs of a tall mansion

Whose lord, a mighty mandarin, has fled before the Tartars,

With his golden whip now broken, his nine war-horses dead

And his own flesh and bone scattered to the winds....

There's a rare ring of green coral underneath the vest

Of a Prince at a street-corner, bitterly sobbing,

Who has to give a false name to anyone who asks him-

Just a poor fellow, hoping for employment.

A hundred days' hiding in grasses and thorns

Show on his body from head to foot.

But, since their first Emperor, all with hooknoses,

These Dragons look different from ordinary men.

Wolves are in the palace now and Dragons are lost in the desert --

O Prince, be very careful of your most sacred person!

I dare not address you long, here by the open road,

Nor even to stand beside you for more than these few moments.

Last night with the spring-wind there came a smell of blood;

The old Capital is full of camels from the east.

Our northern warriors are sound enough of body and of hand --

Oh, why so brave in olden times and so craven now?

Our Emperor, we hear, has given his son the throne

And the southern border-chieftains are loyally inclined

And the Huamen and Limian tribes are gathering to avenge us.

But still be careful-keep yourself well hidden from the dagger.

Unhappy Prince, I beg you, be constantly on guard --

Till power blow to your aid from the Five Imperial Tombs.


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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