Du Fu

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The nation is ruined,
but mountains and rivers remain.

Du Fu (712 – 770) was a prominent Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty. Along with Li Bai (Li Po), he is frequently called the greatest of the Chinese poets.

Quotes[edit]

  • 國破山河在。
    • The nation is ruined, but mountains and rivers remain.
    • "Spring View" (trans. Gary Snyder), written in 755.
    • Variant translation (by David Hinton): The nation falls into ruins; rivers and mountains continue.
  • 无边落木萧萧下,不尽长江滚滚来。
    • Wubian luomu xiaoxiao xia,
      Bu jin changjiang gungun lai.
      • The boundless forest sheds its leaves shower by shower;
        The endless river rolls its waves hour after hour.
      • "On the Heights", in Song of the Immortals: An Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry, trans. Yuanchong Xu (Penguin Books, 1994), p. 60
Good rain is coming to our delight.
Its early-spring timing is perfectly right.
With wind it drifts in all through the night.
Silently it's drenching everything in sight.
  • 好雨知時節,當春乃發生。
    隨風潛入夜,潤物細無聲。
    • Good rain is coming to our delight.
      Its early-spring timing is perfectly right.
      With wind it drifts in all through the night.
      Silently it's drenching everything in sight.
    • "Welcome Rain in a Spring Night" (《春夜喜雨》), as translated by Ying Sun (2008)
It is almost as hard for friends to meet
As for the morning and evening stars.
  • 人生不相見,動如參與商。
    今夕復何夕,共此燈燭光。
    少壯能幾時,鬢髮各已蒼。
    訪舊半爲鬼,驚呼熱中腸。
    焉知二十載,重上君子堂。
    昔別君未婚,兒女忽成行。
    怡然敬父執,問我來何方。
    問答乃未已,兒女羅酒漿。
    夜雨剪春韭,新炊間黃粱。
    主稱會面難,一舉累十觴。
    十觴亦不醉,感子故意長。
    明日隔山嶽,世事兩茫茫。
    • It is almost as hard for friends to meet
      As for the morning and evening stars.
      Tonight then is a rare event,
      Joining, in the candlelight,
      Two men who were young not long ago
      But now are turning grey at the temples.
      To find that half our friends are dead
      Shocks us, burns our hearts with grief.
      We little guessed it would be twenty years
      Before I could visit you again.
      When I went away, you were still unmarried;
      But now these boys and girls in a row
      Are very kind to their father's old friend.
      They ask me where I have been on my journey;
      And then, when we have talked awhile,
      They bring and show me wines and dishes,
      Spring chives cut in the night-rain
      And brown rice cooked freshly a special way.
      My host proclaims it a festival,
      He urges me to drink ten cups—
      But what ten cups could make me as drunk
      As I always am with your love in my heart?
      Tomorrow the mountains will separate us;
      After tomorrow—who can say?
    • "To My Retired Friend Wei" (Chinese: 贈衛八處士) in: University of Virginia's 300 Tang Poems at etext.virginia.edu
Tumult, weeping, many new ghosts.
Heartbroken, aging, alone, I sing
To myself.
  • 战哭多新鬼,愁吟独老翁。
    乱云低薄暮,急雪舞回风。
    瓢弃樽无绿,炉存火似红。
    数州消息断,愁坐正书空。
    • Tumult, weeping, many new ghosts.
      Heartbroken, aging, alone, I sing
      To myself. Ragged mist settles
      In the spreading dusk. Snow skurries
      In the coiling wind. The wineglass
      Is spilled. The bottle is empty.
      The fire has gone out in the stove.
      Everywhere men speak in whispers.
      I brood on the uselessness of letters.
    • "Snow Storm" (对雪), as translated by Kenneth Rexroth in One Hundred Poems from the Chinese (1971), p. 6
  • 天际秋云薄,从西万里风。
    今朝好晴景,久雨不妨农。
    塞柳行疏翠,山梨结小红。
    胡笳楼上发,一雁入高空。
    • Autumn, cloud blades on the horizon.
      The west wind blows from ten thousand miles.
      Dawn, in the clear morning air,
      Farmers busy after long rain.
      The desert trees shed their few green leaves.
      The mountain pears are tiny but ripe.
      A Tartar flute plays by the city gate.
      A single wild goose climbs into the void.
    • "Clear After Rain" (雨晴), as translated by Kenneth Rexroth in One Hundred Poems from the Chinese (1971), p. 16
  • 好雨知时节
    • The good rain knows its season.
    • In: Kim Cheng Boey, Between Stations: Essays (2009), p. 102
  • I'm empty, here at the edge of the sky.
    • "Poem on Night" (trans. Jan W. Walls), in Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry, eds. Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo (1975), p. 139
  • Birds the more white, against green stream
    Blooms burst to flame, against blue hills
    I glance, the spring is gone again.
    What day, what day, can I go home?
    • "A Quatrain" (trans. Jerome P. Seaton), in Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry, eds. Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo (1975), p. 142
  • Nature ever calls people to live
    Along with her; why should I be lured
    By transient rank and honours?
    • "The Winding River", as translated by Rewi Alley in Du Fu: Selected Poems (1962), p. 54
  • Clear waters wind
    Around our village,
    With long summer days
    Full of loveliness;
    Fluttering in and out
    From the house beams
    The swallows play;
    Waterfowl disport together
    As everlasting lovers; ...
    What more could I wish for?
    • "The River by Our Village", as translated by Rewi Alley in Du Fu: Selected Poems (1962), p. 100
  • A visible darkness grows up mountain paths;
    I lodge by the river gate high in a study,
    Frail cloud on a cliff edge passing the night.
    The lonely moon topples amid the waves;
    Steady, one after another, a line of cranes in flight.
    Howling over the kill, wild dogs and wolves.
    No sleep for me. I worry over battles—
    I have no strength to right the universe.
    • "Spending the Night in a Tower by the River" (trans. Stephen Owen)
  • Tonight my wife must watch alone
    the full moon over Fu-zhou;
    I think sadly of my sons and daughters far away,
    too young to understand this separation
    or remember our life in Chang'an.
    In fragrant mist, her flowing hair is damp;
    In clear moonlight, her jade-white arms are cold.
    When will we lean at the open casement together
    while the moonlight dries our shining tears?
  • Within the vermilion gate, meats and wines go to waste
    While on the roadside lie the frozen bodies of the poor.
    • As quoted in Lin Yutang's The Vermilion Gate (1914)

Quotes about Du Fu[edit]

Tu Fu is, in my opinion, and in the opinion of a majority of those qualified to speak, the greatest non-epic, non-dramatic poet who has survived in any language. ~ Kenneth Rexroth
  • 飯顆山頭逢杜甫,頭戴斗笠日卓午。
    借問別來太瘦生,總為從前作詩苦。
    • I ran into Tu Fu by a Rice Grain Mountain,
      In a bamboo hat with the sun at high noon.
      Hasn't he got awfully thin since our parting?
      It must be the struggle of writing his poems.
    • Li Bai, "To Send to Tu Fu as a Joke" (戲贈杜甫), as translated by Elling O. Eide
  • China's greatest poet.
  • His poems do not as a rule come through very well in translation.
  • Tu Fu is, in my opinion, and in the opinion of a majority of those qualified to speak, the greatest non-epic, non-dramatic poet who has survived in any language.
  • Tu Fu was the master stylist of regulated verse, the poet of social protest, the confessional poet, the playful and casual wit, the panegyricist of the imperial order, the poet of everyday life, the poet of the visionary imagination. He was the poet who used colloquial and informal expressions with greater freedom than any of his contemporaries; he was the poet who experimented most boldly with densely artificial poetic diction; he was the most learned poet in recondite allusion and a sense of the historicity of language. One function of literary history is to account for a poet’s identity; Tu Fu’s poetry defies such reduction: the only aspect that can be emphasized without distorting his work as a whole is the very fact of its multiplicity.
    • Stephen Owen, The Great Age of Chinese Poetry (1981), as quoted in Daniel S. Burt's The Literature 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Novelists, Playwrights, and Poets of All Time (2008), p. 104

External links[edit]

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