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Du Fu

Birthdate: 712
Date of death: 770

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Du Fu was a prominent Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty.

Along with Li Bai , he is frequently called the greatest of the Chinese poets. His greatest ambition was to serve his country as a successful civil servant, but he proved unable to make the necessary accommodations. His life, like the whole country, was devastated by the An Lushan Rebellion of 755, and his last 15 years were a time of almost constant unrest.

Although initially he was little-known to other writers, his works came to be hugely influential in both Chinese and Japanese literary culture. Of his poetic writing, nearly fifteen hundred poems have been preserved over the ages. He has been called the "Poet-Historian" and the "Poet-Sage" by Chinese critics, while the range of his work has allowed him to be introduced to Western readers as "the Chinese Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Shakespeare, Milton, Burns, Wordsworth, Béranger, Hugo or Baudelaire".

Quotes Du Fu

„Nature ever calls people to live
Along with her; why should I be lured
By transient rank and honours?“

—  Du Fu
"The Winding River", as translated by Rewi Alley in Du Fu: Selected Poems (1962), p. 54

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„Good rain is coming to our delight.
Its early-spring timing is perfectly right.
With wind it drifts in all through the night.
Silently it's drenching everything in sight.“

—  Du Fu
好雨知時節,當春乃發生。 隨風潛入夜,潤物細無聲。 "Welcome Rain in a Spring Night" (《春夜喜雨》), as translated by Ying Sun http://www.musicated.com/syh/tangpoems.htm (2008)

„The nation is ruined, but mountains and rivers remain.“

—  Du Fu
國破山河在。 "Spring View" (trans. Gary Snyder), written in 755. Variant translation (by David Hinton): The nation falls into ruins; rivers and mountains continue.

„Birds the more white, against green stream
Blooms burst to flame, against blue hills
I glance, the spring is gone again.
What day, what day, can I go home?“

—  Du Fu
"A Quatrain" (trans. Jerome P. Seaton), in Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry, eds. Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo (1975), p. 142

„I'm empty, here at the edge of the sky.“

—  Du Fu
"Poem on Night" (trans. Jan W. Walls), in Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry, eds. Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo (1975), p. 139

„It is almost as hard for friends to meet
As for the morning and evening stars.
Tonight then is a rare event,
Joining, in the candlelight,
Two men who were young not long ago
But now are turning grey at the temples.
To find that half our friends are dead
Shocks us, burns our hearts with grief.
We little guessed it would be twenty years
Before I could visit you again.
When I went away, you were still unmarried;
But now these boys and girls in a row
Are very kind to their father's old friend.
They ask me where I have been on my journey;
And then, when we have talked awhile,
They bring and show me wines and dishes,
Spring chives cut in the night-rain
And brown rice cooked freshly a special way.
My host proclaims it a festival,
He urges me to drink ten cups—
But what ten cups could make me as drunk
As I always am with your love in my heart?
Tomorrow the mountains will separate us;
After tomorrow—who can say?“

—  Du Fu
人生不相見,動如參與商。 今夕復何夕,共此燈燭光。 少壯能幾時,鬢髮各已蒼。 訪舊半爲鬼,驚呼熱中腸。 焉知二十載,重上君子堂。 昔別君未婚,兒女忽成行。 怡然敬父執,問我來何方。 問答乃未已,兒女羅酒漿。 夜雨剪春韭,新炊間黃粱。 主稱會面難,一舉累十觴。 十觴亦不醉,感子故意長。 明日隔山嶽,世事兩茫茫。 "To My Retired Friend Wei" (Chinese: 贈衛八處士) in: University of Virginia's 300 Tang Poems http://etext.virginia.edu/chinese/frame.htm at etext.virginia.edu

„Tumult, weeping, many new ghosts.
Heartbroken, aging, alone, I sing
To myself. Ragged mist settles
In the spreading dusk. Snow skurries
In the coiling wind. The wineglass
Is spilled. The bottle is empty.
The fire has gone out in the stove.
Everywhere men speak in whispers.
I brood on the uselessness of letters.“

—  Du Fu
战哭多新鬼,愁吟独老翁。 乱云低薄暮,急雪舞回风。 瓢弃樽无绿,炉存火似红。 数州消息断,愁坐正书空。 "Snow Storm" (对雪), as translated by Kenneth Rexroth in One Hundred Poems from the Chinese (1971), p. 6

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„Autumn, cloud blades on the horizon.
The west wind blows from ten thousand miles.
Dawn, in the clear morning air,
Farmers busy after long rain.
The desert trees shed their few green leaves.
The mountain pears are tiny but ripe.
A Tartar flute plays by the city gate.
A single wild goose climbs into the void.“

—  Du Fu
天际秋云薄,从西万里风。 今朝好晴景,久雨不妨农。 塞柳行疏翠,山梨结小红。 胡笳楼上发,一雁入高空。 "Clear After Rain" (雨晴), as translated by Kenneth Rexroth in One Hundred Poems from the Chinese (1971), p. 16

„The good rain knows its season.“

—  Du Fu
好雨知时节 In: Kim Cheng Boey, Between Stations: Essays (2009), p. 102

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