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Tu Fu – Thoughts from Wu Gorge

September 14, 2014

Throughout Heaven and Earth, whatever lives
contends. Each place has its own way,
but we all struggle inchmeal, one with another,
tangling ourselves ever tighter in the snare.

Without aristocracy, what would the lowly
grieve for? And without wealth, what could
poverty lack? O, neighborhoods may take turns
mourning, but all time is one lone corpse.

Here, in Wu Gorge, I have lived three unkempt
years out like a fluttering candle, blessed that
after a lifetime growing content with failure,
I’ve forgotten how splendor and disgrace differ.

Before three emperors hatched civilization,
people ate their fill and were content.
Someone started knotting ropes, and now we’re
mired in the glue and varnish of government.

Sui, inventor of fire, was the mastermind.
The catastrophe continued with Tung’s edifying
histories. Everyone knows that if you light
candles and lamps, moths gather in swarms.

(from ‘Thoughts’, from The Selected Poems, translated by David Hinton)

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