Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Still a wanderer farming at the Southern Capital,
Spirit-wounded, I can’t stop gazing north out windows.

But today, I take my wife out in the skiff. Drifting,
We watch our kids bathe in the bright, clear river.

Butterflies tumble through air, one chasing another.
Sharing stems, lotus blossoms float in natural pairs.

Tea, sugar-cane juice – we bring along what simple
Things we have, our clay jars no less than jade.

(Taken from The Selected Poems of Tu Fu,
Translated by David Hinton)


I will be featuring some poems from The Selected Poems of Tu Fu in my next few posts. All poems in this book are translated by David Hinton. What is interesting about his approach was that although he tried to remain faithful to the content of Tu Fu’s poems, he have made little attempt to mimic the formal characteristics of the originals.

His translations read more like contemporary poetry, i.e. the way Tu Fu might have written them if he is alive today. Personally I welcome this approach because I’ve read translations that followed strictly to the formal characteristics of the originals and I think they sound forced and too artificial.

(Updated on 10 January 2006)

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