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


  1. This is great Seth. I also own and love that book as well. I reblogged this from you over at Crashingly Beautiful. I hope you don't mind. I hope your feeling better soon. Go gently.



  2. Don't mind at all, Luke. Thanks for your warm wishes...

  3. Many more of Rexroth's translations, along with lots of his own writings, are online at