In Fuzhou, far away, my wife is watching
The moon alone tonight, and my thoughts fill
With sadness for my children, who can’t think
Of me here in Changan; they’re too young still
Her cloud-soft hair is moist with fragrant mist.
In the clear light her white arms sense the chill.
When will we feel the moonlight dry our tears,
Leaning together on our window-sill?
….. …. …. …. ……
Thoughts While Travelling at Night
Light breeze on the fine grass.
I stand alone at the mast.
Stars lean on the vast wild plain.
Moon bobs in the Great River’s spate.
Letters have brought no fame.
Office? Too old to obtain.
Drifting, what am I like?
A gull between earth and sky.
– Du Fu (712-770)
Du Fu’s attitude to nature is somewhat different from that of either Wang Wei or Li Bai. He sees nature not as retreat or drama but as an emotional or moral entity set in juxtaposition to human life and human events, whether in sympathy or antipathy.
Du Fu failed the imperial examinations multiple times and he did not have a personal patron, so had to live apart from his wife and children, whom he could not afford to keep in the capital.
He has been considered to be one of China’s greatest poets. His feeling for the things of consequence of his times, his realism and honesty, the richness of his technique and language, the moral force of his writing, his affection and concern for those around him and his sense of fun have ensured immortality for the poet who received meagre literary acclaim in his lifetime.
– From ” Three Chinese Poets”
Translation by Vikram Seth