Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dufu: mud hills v. phoenix seat

"The Mud Hills"

Sunrise, and we started to climb
Through the dark mud; sunset and
Still were we in the midst of mud;
Here, the old mud hardly gets a chance
To dry, before the new is made; hard
Work to bridge over the bad places
With planks and stamped dry earth;
One does not mind the everlasting
Journey, but fears falling into
Some hole of mud; my white horse
Has turned as black as iron; my
Little boys look like unsteady old men
As they plug along; monkeys
Are too weighed down with mud to move;
A deer, no strength left, has given up
And died; we ought to send word back
To the north, telling people not to hurry
Through here at this time.



"Phoenix Seat"

I have heard there are
Two great rocks they call
The seat of the phoenixes
Lying to the south of Hsikangchou;
They say that in the times
Of Chou a phoenix came bringing
Glad news of peace; but now
The sound no longer rings
In our ears, so far away it is;
Here mountains are steep,
Roads are not easy to pass,
The rocks are high up in the hills
As though floating on air; how
I wonder, can I get a ladder
And climb up there? Maybe
On top of the Phoenix Seat
Is a motherless bird, each day calling
Miserably, cold and hungry;
I would then be able to take
Out my heart, give my blood
For the phoenix chicks, they taking
The heart instead of the bamboo
Berries they cannot find; then this
My final request, that they drink
My blood, for them better than
The best spring water; now the thing
That is important is the happiness
Of the Emperor; my own life is of
No consequence; we know how
The phoenix puts out its great wings
And flies high into the heavens
With wide open eyes seeing all below;
It can take a scroll in its beak
And carry it to the twelfth storey
Of the palace, presenting it
To the greatest Emperor,
Bringing good news of peace
And prosperity for his land;
Now I would that the rule of our court
Again spreads its sway, so that
All bitterness is cleared
From the lives of our people;
In this hope is all my heart!
Robbers, best now get out
Leaving us alone with peace!


"The Mud Hills" and "Phoenix Seat"
Translated by Rewi Alley
From Tu-Fu, Selected Poems, compiled by Feng Chih
Hongkong: Commercial Press, 1977, pp. 88-90