Night Journey (after Tu Fu)

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First posted in March, 2014.

This is not a translation, but rather a version, my “take” on a famous Tu Fu poem. I claim no abilities in translation, neither speak nor read Chinese, and instead depend upon the skills of those who have ventured into these difficult reaches. This is where the poem carries me, a middle-aged Texas hill county dweller, in the Year of the Horse, 2014.

Night Journey (after Tu Fu)

Wind bends the grass along the road.
A lonely truck passes by.
Stars reach down to touch these hills
and the moon drifts behind.

No one will ever know my poems.
I am too old and ill to work.
Circling, floating, who am I
but a vulture looking down.

Here’s a literal translation of the piece (or so I believe), found on chinese-poems.com:

Nocturnal Reflections While Traveling

Gently grass soft wind shore
Tall mast alone night boat
Stars fall flat fields broad
Moon rises great river flows

Name not literary works mark
Official should old sick stop
Flutter flutter what place seem
Heaven earth one sand gull

My goal was to retain the mood, as I understand it, of the original, and to place it into my personal context. An interesting exercise.

40 thoughts on “Night Journey (after Tu Fu)

  1. Your response to Tu Fu’s poem has spurred me to respond to both your and his poems on this rainy morning. I’m not a poet and I haven’t edited this but I know if I stop to edit, I’ll never share it! So from a Canadian urban dweller, living in a city with two official languages:

    Early Morning Rain Reflections

    Silver foil slushes to kerb.
    Concrete glass aluminum crowd
    together. White sky streams down
    searching for long-smothered rivers.

    Words slip, forgetting meaning,
    No-one to hold them back.
    Effortlessly they soar, mocking
    the meagerness of my reach.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It is good to see poems inspired by Du Fu – yours have such imagery, sound and rhythm that you owe little, other than inspiration, to him. Of course, that inspiration is what we all long for. I believe you are successful in evoking his spirit 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. MG,Jr. version of Tu Fu’s poem “Nocturnal Reflections While Travelling”
    This paraphrasing was spurred by reading (and appreciating) Robert Okaji’s example.
    https://robertokaji.com/2015/11/01/night-journey-after-tu-fu-2/

    Night Sail

    Soft wind gently through shore grass waving,
    Alone by the tall mast, sailing at night.
    Fields of stars stretch beyond seeing,
    The great river flow is quavering moonlight.

    My writing all, born for oblivion,
    Myself, aged past thought by those today.
    Heaven and Earth and I are all One,
    Emerging as sand-gull wings flutter away.

    28 November 2015

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Night Sail | manuelgarciajr

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