From: The Journey North

Well, now I’m coming home
From troubles of my own

And with hair gone white
I wonder if they’ll know me

Here’s my wife at last
Wearing a much-patched dress

Crying to see me here
Sighing like wind in the pine trees

Sobbing uncontrollably
Like any babbling brook

And here’s my boy, all pale,
The jewel that crowns my life

He turns his back to me
Ashamed of his own weeping

I see his dirty feet
He has no shoes or socks

And there are my two daughters
Their clothes all patched as well

Too small for them, with images
All crazy and mismatched

A dragon and a phoenix
Turned upside down to mending

I feel age overcome me
And take me to my bed, all nauseous

Three days until I am better
but meanwhile I’ve brought

A bag of silks to help them
Dress against the cold

And some bedding for them
And a few cosmetics

My wife’s face takes on color
The little girls’ as well

They start to play with makeup
To imitate their mother

They overdo the rouge
And paint on crooked eyebrows

Just being with my children
Restores my strength and spirits

I’d rather have them pester me
And shower me with questions

Than ever have to deal again
With rebels and their ways.

– Tu Fu 750’s A.D.

From David Young’ s translation “Du Fu: A Life in Poetry”
Available on Amazon and if you like Tu Fu then I can’t recommend it enough. Best translations since Rexroth.


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