Tu Fu

(712-770 / Gong County / China)

Dreaming of Li Po


After the separation of death one can eventually swallow back one's grief, but
the separation of the living is an endless, unappeasable anxiety. From
pestilent Chiang-nan no news arrives of the poor exile. That my old friend
should come into my dream shows how constantly he is in my thoughts. I fear
that this is not the soul of a living man: the journey is so immeasurably far.
When your soul left, the maple woods were green: on its return the passes were
black with night. Lying now enmeshed in the net of the law, how did you find
wings with which to fly here? The light of the sinking moon illumines every
beam and rafter of my chamber, and I half expect it to light up your face. The
water is deep, the waves are wide: don't let the water-dragons get you.

All day long the floating clouds drift by, and still the wanderer has not
arrived! For three nights running I have repeatedly dreamed of you. Such
affectionate concern on your part shows your feelings for me! Each time you
said goodbye you seemed so uneasy. `It isn't easy to come', you would say
bitterly; `The waters are so rough. I am afriad the boat will capsize!' Going
out of my door you scratched your white head as if your whole life's ambition
had been frustrated.
The Capital is full of new officials, yet a man like this is so wretched!
Who is going to tell me that the `net is wide' when this ageing man
remains in difficulties? Imperishable renown is cold comfort when you can only
enjoy it in the tomb!

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

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  • Paul Sebastian (5/11/2014 8:58:00 AM)

    Considering the time and cultural background, the poet's constrained expression of his love for Li Po is daring and determined. Chinese classical. (Report) Reply

  • Mel Patterson (4/2/2007 9:33:00 AM)

    Your poem touched my heart. Of your poems that I have read, I am better for doing so. Thank you and keep up the good work.

    Mel Patterson (Carmela) (Report) Reply

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