Translation / December 2013 (Issue 22)

Four Poems

by Du Fu, translated by George Life

Deeply Ill and Suffering from the Heat,
Presenting my Thoughts to Minister Li Zhifang

in waning years suffering through     the onset of illness
at the start of summer how is it     the air can be so stifling

great waters vast and indistinct     join the flaming sea
a strange peak severe and towering     rises to red clouds

longing to feel on the hot road     cool rain of the season
daring to hope for imperial favor     ice from the jade well

it's not that I'm not mindful    of the time that was set
in Shanyin in raging snow     the impulse hard to follow

In Gongan, Seeing Off Wei Kuangzan

since the Duke of Xiaoyao    the world's seen great men
seeing you off by linked boat     confined to these mats

in commemoration all I can offer    are a few characters
as for the poem there's no need     to circulate it widely

a time of danger weapons of war     in the yellow dust
days shortening amid rivers and lakes     old age ahead

from antiquity down to the present    all is only tears
it breaks the heart to separate    each to wind and smoke

Responding to Magistrate Guo Shou

of little talent and growing old    still an empty name
ill in bed amid rivers and lakes    as spring renews itself

medicine alone concerns me     poems all abandoned
flowering branch brilliant sight    lines still incomplete

no better than the stone of Yan    merely a fallen rock
I've received the Sui pearl     awake at night in its glow

past Qiaokou and Juzhou     blown by wind and waves
hoisting the sail how sad it is    the brevity of passage

For Wei Zanshan

our clans within the capital    produced no lack of talent
around Duling and Weiqu    before Weiyang Palace

your family rose nearest to    the three celestial ranks
everyone agreed we were both    five feet from heaven

walking north over mountains    open to rain and snow
traveling south amid willows     clouded out by smoke

on Dongting in midst of spring    I'll grieve over you
catching fish forgetting home     adrift on Fan Li's boat
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