Officer at the Western Pass
- Poetry of Du Fu

《潼关吏》

- Last updated: 2024-04-11 19:45:41

Officer at the Western Pass by Du Fu
中文原文

士卒何草草,筑城潼关道。

大城铁不如,小城万丈余。

借问潼关吏,修关还备胡?

要我下马行,为我指山隅。

连云列战格,飞鸟不能逾。

胡来但自守,岂复忧西都?

丈人视要处,窄狭容单车。

艰难奋长戟,万古用一夫。

哀哉桃林战,百万化为鱼。

请嘱防关将,慎勿学哥舒。


English Translation

How hard do soldiers work and toil,

Building ramparts on western soil!

Iron-clad bastions high and low

Like walls along the mountain go.

I ask an officer near by

If against foes are built walls high.

He asks me to dismount and look

Around and points to mountain nook.

The forts on the peaks scrape the sky,

Over them even birds can’t fly.

When come the foe, we guard the wall,

There’s no fear for the capital.

He shows me the narrow pass too,

Only single chariots file through.

When guarded with long spear by one,

The fortress can be forced by none.

But defeated at Peach Grove, alas!

Ten thousand men slain at the pass.

Please tell the general guarding here:

Be not defeated as that year!

By Du Fu

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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