Pages

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tu Fu's "By the Winding River"

This is from Kenneth Rexroth's wonderful book of translations, One Hundred Poems From the Chinese. I keep the book around like a talisman, and take it out when I feel lonesome. Something about Tu Fu, the way he celebrates sadness--something about his joyful melancholy speaks to me, especially now, as I struggle to maintain my health in the face of illness.

I've discovered that my illness speaks, if I let it. What does my illness say? It issues a challenge: to live, even as I feel death; to try, as hard as I can, to feel joy--a joy that maintains sadness, even as it yearns to for happiness.

By the Winding River

Every day on the way home from
My office I pawn another
Of my Spring clothes. Every day
I come home from the river bank
Drunk. Everywhere I go, I owe
Money for wine. History
Records few men who have lived to be
Seventy. I watch the yellow
Butterflies drink deep of the
Flowers, and the dragonflies
Dipping the surface of the
Water again and again.
I cry out to the Spring wind,
And the light and the passing hours.
We enjoy life such a little
While, why should men cross each other?

~Tu Fu