Night at the Tower by Tu Fu

Yin and Yang cut brief autumn days short. Frost and snow
Clear, leaving a cold night open at the edge of heaven.

Marking the fifth watch, grieving drums and horns erupt as
A river of stars, shadows trembling, drifts in Three Gorges.

Pastoral weeping–war heard in how many homes? And tribal
Songs drifting from the last woodcutters and fishermen. . . . .

Chu-ko Liang, Pai-ti: all brown earth in the end. And it
Opens, the story of our lives opens away. . . .vacant, silent.

translated by David Hinton

note: Chu-ko Liang & Pai-ti were both state ministers: one famous, the other infamous. Thus,Tu Fu uses another set of opposites in this poem.

Ch’en-t’ao Lament by Tu Fu

Now fine homes in ten prefectures have dead sons
making water with their blood on Ch’en-t’ao Marsh.

An early winter’s panoramic waste: crystal sky,
the silence of war. Forty thousand dead in a day.

Mongol battalions return. Their arrows bathed blood-
black, drunk in the markets, they sing Mongol songs.

And we face north to mourn, another day conjuring
our army’s appearance passing into hopeful night.

translated by David Hinton

K’uei-chou by Tu Fu

Above K’uei-chou’s wall, a cloud-form village. Below:
wind-tossed sheets of falling rain, a swollen river

Thrashing in the gorge. Thunder and lightning battle.
Kingfisher-gray trees and ashen ivy shroud sun and moon.

War horses can’t compare to those back in quiet pastures.
But of a thousand homes, a bare hundred remain. Ai–

Ai–the widow beaten by life’s toll, grief-torn,
Sobbing in what village where on the autumn plain?

translated by DAvid Hinton

I Climb A Hilltop: anti-war poem from the Book of Songs

I climb a rock-strewn hilltop
and gaze, gaze out toward my
father, O father calling: My child, my child dragged off to war,
no rest all day and all night.
Take care, take care and be ever
homeward, not stuck out there.

I climb a grass-patch hilltop
and gaze, gaze out toward my
mother, O mother calling: My little one, my little one dragged off to war,
no sleep all day and all night.
Take care, take care and be ever
homeward, not lost out there.

I climb some windblown ridge
and gaze, gaze out toward my
brother, O brother calling: My brother, my brother dragged off to war,
formation all day and all night.
Take care, take care and be ever
homeward, not dead out there.

translated by David Hinton