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

Sunset by Tu Fu

Sunset glitters on the beads
Of the curtains. Spring flowers
Bloom in the valley. The gardens
Along the river are filled
With perfume. Smoke of cooking
Fires drifts over the slow barges.
Sparrows hop and tumble in
The branches. Whirling insects
Swam in the air. Who discovered
That one cup of thick wine
Will dispel a thousand cares?

translated by Kenneth Rexroth

Climbing Oxhead Mountain Temple by Tu Fu

I couldn’t stop thinking about mountains
step after step on my way to Oxhead
no longer held back by restrains
I was finally wandering without a plan
in the quiet of a flower-scented temple in spring
in the seclusion of a bamboo-veiled pond
where is that oriole singing
it hasn’t stopped the whole time

translated by Red Pine

Moonlight Night by Tu Fu

Moon of this night,in Fu-chou,
alone in your chamber you gaze.
Here, far away, I think of the children,
too young to remember Longpeace. . .
Fragrant mist, moist cloud of your hair.
In that clear light, your arms of jade cool.
When, again to lean together, by your curtain there,
alight alike, until our tears have dried.

translated by J.P. Seaton

Entering Tung-t’ing Lake by Tu Fu

Ch’ing-ts’ao Lake is wrapped in serpent dens,
And White-Sand lost beyond Dragon-Back Island.
Ancient, cragged trees shelter flood-dikes
Here. Crow spirits dance, greeting these oars.

Returning, waves high and south winds strong, I
Fear sunsets. But tonight, a dazzling lake
Stretches into distant heavens–as if any moment,
On this raft of immortals, I will drift away.

translated by David Hinton

Returning Late by Tu Fu

After midnight, eluding tigers on the road, I return
home below dark mountains. My family asleep inside,

the Northern Dipper drifts nearby, sinking low
on the river. Venus blazes–huge in empty space.

Holding a candle in the courtyard, I call for two
torches. A gibbon in the gorge, startled, shrieks once.

Old and tired, my hair white, I dance and sing out.
Goosefoot cane, no sleep. . . .Catch me if you can!

translated by David Hinton

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.