To Li Po on a Winter Day by Tu Fu

Alone in my secluded hut,
I think of you all day, Li Po.

Whenever I read of friendship,
I remember your friendly poems.

Harsh winds tatter your old clothes
as you search for the wine of endless life.

Unable to go with you, I remember only
that old hermitage we’d hoped to make a home.

translated by Sam Hamill

Running from Trouble by Tu Fu

Barely fifty, but already my face is old, hair white.
I traveled this whole coast fleeing the state.

Rough cloth saved my shivering bones
as I roamed the awful cold.

Thus began the years of my disease.
Everywhere, people were mud and ash.

Between heaven and earth,
there’s nowhere a body is safe.

I see my wife and children follow.
We sigh for mutual sorrows.

My old home gone to weeds,
and all my neighbors scattered,

we may never find the road back home.
We add our tears to the river.

translated by Sam Hamill

Watching the Distances by Tu Fu

I watch the limitless distance of autumn,
the far-off dark rising up in layers

where icy waters merge with the frozen sky
and the city is blurred with mist.

Last leaves are torn into flight by winds,
and sunless, distant peaks fade fast.

A lone crane flops home at dusk.
The trees are full of crows.

translated by Sam Hamill

A Night Abroad by Tu Fu

A light wind is rippling at the grassy shore. . .
Through the night, to my motionless mast,
The stars lean down from open space,
And the moon comes running up the river.
. . .If only my art might bring me fame
And free my sick old age from office!–
Flitting, flitting, what am I like
But a sand-snipe in the wide, wide world!

translated by Witter Bynner & Kiang Kang-hu

On the Gate-tower at Yo-chou by Tu Fu

I had always heard of Lake Tung-t’ing–
And now at last I have climbed to this tower.
With Wu country to the east of me and Ch’u to the south,
I can see heaven and earth endlessly floating.
. . .But no word has reached me from kin or friends.
I am old and sick and alone with my boat.
North of this wall there are wars and mountains—
And here by the rail how can I help crying?

translated by Witter Bynner & Kiang Kang-hu

They Say You’re Staying in a Mountain Temple by Tu Fu: written for his younger brother who he has not seen for over three years

They say you’re staying in a mountain temple,
In Hang-chou–or is it Yüeh-chou?
In the wind and grime of war, how long since we parted!
At Chiang-han, bright autumns waste away.
While my shadow rests by monkey-loud trees,
my soul whirls off to where shell-born towers rise.
Next year on floods of spring I’ll go downriver,
to the white clouds at the end of the east I’ll look for you!

translated by Burton Watson


Meandering Poems, One by Tu Fu

A single petal swirling diminishes the spring.
Ten thousand dots adrift in the wind, they sadden me.
Shouldn’t I then gaze at flowers about to fall before my eyes?
Never disdain the hurtful wine that passes through my lips.
In the small pavilion by the river nest the kingfisher birds;
Close by a high tomb in the royal park lie stone unicorns.
This, a simple law of nature: seek pleasure while there’s time.
Who needs drifting fame to entangle the body?

translated by Irving Y. Lo