A Toast for Men Yun-Ch’ing by Du Fu and Florence Ayscough (Translator)
But grief for our white heads.
We love the long watches of the night, the red candle.
It would be difficult to have too much of meeting,
Let us not be in hurry to talk of separation.
But because the Heaven River will sink,
We had better empty the wine-cups.
To-morrow, at bright dawn, the world’s business will entangle us.
We brush away our tears,
We go—East and West.
Today’s poem was taken from Fir-flower Tablets: Poems Translated from the Chinese, which was published in 1921 by Houghton Mifflin. This collection can be read and/or downloaded for free at Project Gutenberg, a website that makes public domain works readily available to anyone with access to the Internet. Simply click on the link provided here and it will take you to the book’s page, where you can either read it in your web browser or download it for offline reading on your e-reader, tablet, or other mobile device.
Considered one of the foremost poets of the Tang Dynasty, Du Fu (712-770) was born in Henan Province to a civil servant. His mother passed away when he was still very young, so one of his aunts assisted in raising him. His initial aspiration was to become a civil servant like his father, but after failing the test he became somewhat of a drifter, traveling from place to place and writing of his experiences.
Later on, Du Fu made an official petition to the Chinese government for a position in service to the state, and was made registrar in the palace of the crown prince. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Du Fu was unable to begin his post as registrar because of the turmoil unleashed by the start of the An Lushan Rebellion, which began in 755 and continued for several years.
Once again forced to live a nomadic lifestyle, Du Fu wrote about the things he witnessed and experienced during his journeys, most of which were extremely painful. Personal and political turmoil no doubt colored Du Fu’s worldview, but you can also see in his poetry an appreciation of the world’s beauty pushing against the pain we suffer in our short human lives.
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