Wednesday, May 21, 2014


My True Nature

Tu Fu (712-770), "On the Spur of the Moment," tr. Burton Watson in The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), p. 232 (with translator's footnote):
River slopes, already into the midmonth of spring,
under the blossoms, bright mornings again:
I look up, eager to watch the birds;
turn my head, answering what I took for a call.
Reading books, I skip the difficult parts;
faced with wine, I keep my cup filled.
These days I've gotten to know the old man of O-mei;1
he understands this idleness that is my true nature.

1. O-mei is a famous mountain southwest of Ch'eng-tu.
The same, tr. David Hinton in The Selected Poems of Tu Fu (New York: New Directions, 1989), p. 62:
Already mid-spring on the riverside,
Sunrise opens beneath the blossoms again.
Hoping to see the bird, I look up. And
Turning away, I answer . . . no one there.

I read, skipping over hard parts easily,
Pour wine from full jars. . . . The old
Sage on O-mei is a new friend.
It is here, in idleness, I become real.
The same, tr. Edna Worthley Underwood and Chi Hwang Chu in Tu Fu: Wanderer and Minstrel Under Moons of Cathay (Portland: Mosher Press, 1929), p. 92:
On this river-bank Middle Spring has come.
Under trees in flower at the morning's prime
I can lean to look at the swinging birds.
I lie to the man who asks my health.

I read. I skip unfamiliar words.
I face wine and I fill my cup to the brim.
'Tis not long since I met Hermit O Mei.
He knows the truth—just how lazy I am.

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