Su Tung-po

(1037 - 1101 / China)

Battle of Red Cliff


The Yangtze flows east
Washing away
A thousand ages of great men
West of the ramparts --
People say --
Are the fabled Red Cliffs of young Chou of the Three Kingdoms
Rebellious rocks pierce the sky
Frightening waves rip the bank
The backwash churns vast snowy swells --
River and mountains like a painting
how many heroes passed them, once ...

Think back to those years, Chou Yu --
Just married to the younger Chiao --
Brave, brilliant
With plumed fan, silk kerchief
Laughed and talked
While masts and oars vanished to flying ash and smoke!
I roam through ancient realms
Absurdly moved
Turn gray too soon --
A man's life passes like a dream --
Pour out a cup then, to the river, and the moon




Translation 2


The endless river eastward flows;
With its huge waves are gone all those
Gallant heroes of bygone years.
West of the ancient fortress years
Red Cliff where General Zhou Yu won his early fame
When the Three Kingdoms were in flame.
Jugged rocks tower in the air
And swashing waves beat on the air
Rolling up a thousand heaps of snow.
To match the hills and the river so fair,
How many heroes brave of yore
Made a great show!



Translation 3


The great river surges east,

Its waves have scoured away

Since time began all traces of heroic men.

The western side of the old fort

Was once, so people say,

Known as the Red Cliff of Zhou of the Three Kingdoms.

With piled-up rocks to stab the sky

And waves to shake them thunderously

Churning the frothy mass to mounds of snow,

It's like a masterpiece in paint.

Those ages hide how many a hero!

Think back to those old days;

that first year when Zhou Yu had just married the Young Qiao.

Then, what a hero he became!

With waving fan and silken cap

He talked and laughed at ease

While masts and oars were blotted out in smoke and flame!

My wits that stray to realms of old

Deserve the scorn of all who feel;

Years pass, and hair grows white so soon.

Though a man's life is like a dream,

One toast continues still -- the River and the Moon!

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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