Spring Scene in Time of War
The state lies ruined; hills and streams survive.
Spring in the city; grass and leaves now thrive.
Moved by the times the flowers shed their dew.
The birds seem startled; they hate parting too.
The steady beacon fires are three months old.
A word from home is worth a ton of gold.
I scratch my white hair, which has grown so thin
It soon won't let me stick my hatpin in.
--Du Fu, tr. Vikram SethThe poets , , and were contemporaries in the eighth century C.E.; they were born in a golden age of culture and good government that ripped itself and China apart before they died. Seth gives more historical detail, and also describes the original forms he was trying to live up to. Seth likes good old rhyme and meter - his Golden Gate is a novel written entirely in sonnets, and is easy to read withal - but was aiming for translations, not new invocations of the muse: he remarks
"The famous translations of, compounded as they are of ignorance of Chinese and valiant self-indulgence have remained before me as a warning of what to shun."
Well, I am ignorant of Chinese, and never mind self-indulgence, but I like these translations enough to learn some by heart - the rhyme & meter help - and like the poems well enough that I'm glad to have them.
ISBN: 1-85799-780-8So wrote clew in Poetry.