Tu Fu

(712-770 / Gong County / China)

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Day's End


Oxen and sheep were brought back down
Long ago, and bramble gates closed. Over
Mountains and rivers, far from my old garden,
A windswept moon rises into clear night.

Springs trickle down dark cliffs, and autumn
Dew fills ridgeline grasses. My hair seems
Whiter in lamplight. The flame flickers
Good fortune over and over -- and for what?

Submitted: Saturday, May 26, 2001
Edited: Saturday, May 26, 2001

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Read poems about / on: autumn, hair, moon, dark, night, river, rose, spring

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  • Manonton Dalan (5/26/2012 7:09:00 AM)

    hmmm... i better enjoy before all my hair
    turn gray so i won't be saying good fortune
    over and over... and for what (Report) Reply

  • Terence George Craddock (5/26/2010 2:05:00 PM)

    What wonderful beauty in the first quatrain, continued into the second quatrain and all leading into the unexpected question ‘- and for what? ’ Clearly this question is important and meant to be answered. Definitely the ‘Good fortune over and over’ occurred for a reason.
    Bringing the ‘Oxen and sheep’ down early from high pasture during autumn in mountain regions with rivers is wise. The ‘Springs trickle down dark cliffs’ tells us that no storms or rain has caused any problems recently, while the dark cliffs indicate that this is not a place to safely move stock after nightfall. ‘Dew fills ridgeline grasses’ is yet another blessing, the stock still has good grass nourished by dew during autumn, and the word ridgeline again indicates this is a dangerous environment along the top of this mountain, where caution is always needed.
    The good weather and stock safely enclosed for the night are reasons for appreciation. ‘Good fortune over and over’ might mean the season is exceptionally good for this mountain region this year. The ‘and for what? ’ might indicate no children to pass this blessing onto. Does the white hair imply wisdom, that we should use our good fortune to bless others? Does ‘My hair seems /Whiter in lamplight’ mean, the narrator is not as wise as this age implies and is not thankful for all these blessings? A beautifully posed open ended question. One thing is certain, we are supposed to meditate upon the question and find answers within our lives. (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (5/26/2010 5:59:00 AM)

    Tu Fu is not at the “fag end” of his life – white hair is one of his fortunes – he is contented with everything except the question that nags at him: “What is all this good fortune for? ” How human it is to have everything, and yet question the meaning of existence! (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A (5/26/2010 2:22:00 AM)

    At the end of the day livestock being kept in safe custody spring oozing from the cliff and dew drops on the edge of grass good old man is comfortably placed in wonderful surrounding. This is indeed a fortunate situation in life! But for the old man this is more than needed! And so, he questions what for they are well furnished so? At the fag end of life this is abundant indeed! (Report) Reply

  • Ray Rasmussen (7/13/2009 9:56:00 AM)

    A lovely poem and despite the edgy exchange thanks all for speaking your thoughts about the meaning of the poem.

    Does anyone know who the translator is? And are there other translations of this poem.
    Needless to say, I found it quite touching.

    Ray Rasmussen ray 'at' raysweb 'dot' net (Report) Reply

  • Daniel Partlow (5/26/2009 5:21:00 PM)

    This is reminiscent of King Solomon's 'All just chasing the wind' sentiments from the book of Ecclesiastes written about 2000 years prior. This is my translation and extrapolation on Tu Fu (Du Pu) On the Road to Fengxian: http: //www.poemhunter.com/poem/on-route-from-the-capital-to-fengxian-to-damascus/ (Report) Reply

  • Michael Harmon (5/26/2009 2:11:00 PM)

    Argumentum ad Hominem (abusive and circumstantial) : the fallacy of attacking the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing a statement or an argument instead of trying to disprove the truth of the statement or the soundness of the argument. Often the argument is characterized simply as a personal attack.

    The personal attack is also often termed an 'ad personem argument': the statement or argument at issue is dropped from consideration or is ignored, and the locutor's character or circumstances are used to influence opinion.

    The fallacy draws its appeal from the technique of 'getting personal.' The assumption is that what the locutor is saying is entirely or partially dictated by his character or special circumstances and so should be disregarded.

    -philosophy.lander.edu/logic/person (Report) Reply

  • Michael Pruchnicki (5/26/2009 9:00:00 AM)

    Straw has never once offered a clear analysis of any poem on this site. What is so clearly stated in the poem is exactly what I have suggested. One reads poetry not for the claptrap Straw proposes - 'the unanswerability of the question'! Tu Fu has written a brief poem depicting in concrete images the irony of a long life that is just that and no more. No answers, just a long life lived in a place the poet cherishes and for what! Brings to mind for me a response an ancient Roman Stoic philosopher might make. Perhaps there's more substance than the caustic Straw can discern! (Report) Reply

  • Joseph Poewhit (5/26/2009 7:19:00 AM)

    Poet seems to depict everyday rural life. Then at the end, questions it's relevance.The onset of age, seems to be the catalyst that sets the poems under tone. Maybe sort of seeing the grass greener in another's yard. When your own backyard is your life and kingdom. (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (5/26/2009 6:43:00 AM)

    I do not think we need Mr Pruchnicki to laboriously tell us what is clearly stated in the poem. This poem does not do anything so philosophical as answer the question 'For what? ' - the point of the poem is in the unanswerability of the question. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Pruchnicki (5/26/2008 12:01:00 PM)

    A two stanza poem by Tu Fu portrays in brief the thoughts of an aging man as he contemplates both the beauty and brevity of life.

    The first stanza delineates livestock being brought down from summer pasture long ago and the gates closed for the autumn and the onslaught of cold winter snows and ice. A cold moon rises suggests the drawing to a close of one season in preparation for another.

    The speaker sees his white hair is even whiter in the flickering light of the candle.
    This image suggests the onset of old age and eventual death. Though fortune has smiled on him, he puts forth the plaintive question 'For what? ' There seems to be no good reason for someone at his stage in life to be looking forward. Of course, the last stanza suggests the answer-'Day's End'. Even grasses growing on the ridgeline benefit from the last warm days of autumn. (Report) Reply

  • Kristin Davis (5/26/2006 7:02:00 AM)

    Hi Tu Fu, Just letting you know I enjoyed your poem. Thanks for sharing! Keep the pen a pumpin'! (Report) Reply

Read all 19 comments »

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