Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Old and Feeble

Du Fu (712-770), "Autumn Fields," II (tr. Burton Watson, with his note):
Easy to know—the law of this floating life;
hard to deflect a single being from it:
when waters are deep, fish are at their happiest,
where groves flourish, birds find their roost.
Old, feeble, I'm content to be poor and sickly,
wouldn't know how to deal with abundance.
Autumn winds blow over my armrest and cane;
I don't disdain fern sprouts from the northern mountain.1

1. A reference to the ancient sages Bo Yi and Shu Qi, who chose to live off the fern sprouts of Mt. Shouyang rather than compromise their principles.
The same, tr. Stephen Owen:
Easy to recognize the pattern in this life adrift—
you can't make a single creature go against its nature.
Where the water is deep, the fish have the utmost joy;
birds knows to return where the woods are most leafy.
Aging and infirm, I accept poverty and sickness,
in prominence and glory there are judgments to be made.
The autumn wind blows on my cane and armrest,
I do not weary of north mountain's wild beans.

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