19 February 2016

Night thoughts while travelling by Du Fu

A light breeze rustles the reeds
Along the river banks. The
Mast of my lonely boat soars
Into the night. Stars blossom 
Over the vast desert of
Waters. Moonlight flows on the
Surging river. My poems have
Made me famous but I grow
Old, ill and tired, blown hither
And yon; I am like a gull
Lost between heaven and earth. 

New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry
Translated by Kenneth Rexroth

It's funny, the book provides a different translation of the same poem and they are poles apart. I feel this one has all the feeling of the original which a more faithful rendering of the actual words can only hint at. 

You can read about Du Fu at Wikipedia. At one point, being a poet and the public service went together in China, which probably reflects the primary nature of the study required to become an official: philosophy, history and poetry. He also won the moniker Saint of Poetry and was/is very popular in Japan apparently. 

I love that one of his poems includes: "I am about to scream madly in the office / Especially when they bring more papers to pile higher on my desk." These days it is email instead. 

A poem he wrote for a friend commences:

"It is almost as hard for friends to meet
As for the morning and evening stars."


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