This is from Kenneth Rexroth's wonderful book of translations, One Hundred Poems From the Chinese. I keep the book around like a talisman. I take it out when I feel lonesome. Something about Tu Fu, the way, to me, he celebrates sadness--something about his joyful melancholy speaks to me, especially now, as I struggle to maintain my health in the face of illness. I've discovered that illness speaks, if I let it. What does my illness say? It issues a challenge: to live, even as I feel death; and to try, as hard as I can, to feel joy--a joy that maintains sadness, even as it yearns to for happiness. Isn't that just life, though? Yearning? Does that ever end?
By the Winding River
Every day on the way home from
My office I pawn another
Of my Spring clothes. Every day
I come home from the river bank
Drunk. Everywhere I go, I owe
Money for wine. History
Records few men who have lived to be
Seventy. I watch the yellow
Butterflies drink deep of the
Flowers, and the dragonflies
Dipping the surface of the
Water again and again.
I cry out to the Spring wind,
And the light and the passing hours.
We enjoy life such a little
While, why should men cross each other?