Anchored on Ch’in-huai River by Tu Mu

Mist mantling cold waters, and moonlight shoreline sand,
we anchor overnight near a wine-house entertaining guests.

A nation lost in ruins; knowing nothing of that grief, girls
sing Courtyard Blossoms. Their voices drift across the river.

translated by David Hinton

3 thoughts on “Anchored on Ch’in-huai River by Tu Mu

  1. This is for me one of the most haunting poems of those in Poems of the Masters, and I like the Hinton and Red Pine translations equally. The contradictions Tu receives from his senses, the knowledge of the political turmoil, the sensual sounds of singing, the transmission across the calm water to where he is anchored, afloat on a thin surface of something much deeper, that moment in time–it’s far more rich than our typical 20th/21st century sense of irony can characterize. It’s got longing, despair, appreciation, all of a piece in such a short, perfect poem. I’d like to write the poem like this one–one that cannot be translated poorly! No matter how it’s rewritten, something of its depths carries over across the sound.

    • It is a beautifully haunting poem but I tend to lean toward Hinton’s translation, though Red Pine’s is fine, too. But Hinton’s struck me so deeply, and I can’t help but think it is no different today. Those girls are still singing, and not just girls, as the world seems to crumble around us.

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