A Song of War-Chariots
- Poetry of Du Fu


- Last updated: 2024-03-31 22:04:47

A Song of War-Chariots by Du Fu


















English Translation

The war-chariots rattle,

The war-horses whinny.

Each man of you has a bow and a quiver at his belt.

Father, mother, son, wife, stare at you going,

Till dust shall have buried the bridge beyond Changan.

They run with you, crying, they tug at your sleeves,

And the sound of their sorrow goes up to the clouds;

And every time a bystander asks you a question,

You can only say to him that you have to go.

...We remember others at fifteen sent north to guard the river

And at forty sent west to cultivate the campfarms.

The mayor wound their turbans for them when they started out.

With their turbaned hair white now, they are still at the border,

At the border where the blood of men spills like the sea --

And still the heart of Emperor Wu is beating for war.

...Do you know that, east of China's mountains, in two hundred districts

And in thousands of villages, nothing grows but weeds,

And though strong women have bent to the ploughing,

East and west the furrows all are broken down?

...Men of China are able to face the stiffest battle,

But their officers drive them like chickens and dogs.

Whatever is asked of them,

Dare they complain?

For example, this winter

Held west of the gate,

Challenged for taxes,

How could they pay?

...We have learned that to have a son is bad luck-

It is very much better to have a daughter

Who can marry and live in the house of a neighbour,

While under the sod we bury our boys.

...Go to the Blue Sea, look along the shore

At all the old white bones forsaken --

New ghosts are wailing there now with the old,

Loudest in the dark sky of a stormy day.


This poem dates from around 750 or 751.

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.

© 2024 CN-Poetry.com Famous Chinese Poems in English