Night in the Watch-tower
- Poetry of Du Fu

《阁夜》

- Last updated: 2024-05-08 19:54:27

Night in the Watch-tower by Du Fu
中文原文

岁暮阴阳催短景,天涯霜雪霁寒宵。

五更鼓角声悲壮,三峡星河影动摇。

野哭千家闻战伐,夷歌数处起渔樵。

卧龙跃马终黄土,人事音书漫寂寥。


English Translation

While winter daylight shortens in the elemental scale

And snow and frost whiten the cold-circling night,

Stark sounds the fifth-watch with a challenge of drum and bugle.

...The stars and the River of Heaven pulse over the three mountains;

I hear women in the distance, wailing after the battle;

I see barbarian fishermen and woodcutters in the dawn.

...Sleeping-Dragon, Plunging-Horse, are no generals now, they are dust --

Hush for a moment, O tumult of the world.

Seven-character-regular-verse

The poet, closely following the title, describes from many angles what he saw, heard and felt while staying at the West Pavilion at night, mentioning the world, the past and the present, which converge into a sad and tragic picture, a true reflection of the suffering of the people, showing the poet’s great heart.

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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