from Dreaming of Li Po, Two Poems by Tu Fu: Poem 2

Leonard Durso

Drifting clouds pass by all day long;
The wanderer is long in getting here.
Three nights now you’ve entered my dreams–
Which shows how good a friend you are.
But your leave-takings are hurried,
Bitterly you say, it’s not easy to come;
The river’s waters are wind-blown and choppy,
And you’re afraid to lose your oars.
Outside the door, you scratch your white head,
As if a lifetime’s ambition were forfeit.
Officials teem in the capital city,
Yet you alone are wretched.
Who says the net is wide,
When it tangles such a man in his old age?
An imperishable fame of a thousand years
Is but a paltry, after-life affair.

translated by Eugene Eoyang

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