The Selected Poems of Tu Fu
Moonlit Night, Thinking of My Brothers
Warning drums have ended all travel.
A lone goose cries across borderland
autumn. Dew first chills frost-white
tonight. This moon’s bright over our
old village, my brothers scattered, no
home to ask if they’re alive or dead.
Letters sent never arrive. War comes
and goes—then comes like this again.
The last watch has sounded in Amble-Awe.
Radiant color spreads above Solar-Terrace
Mountain, then cold sun clears high peaks.
Mist and cloud linger across layered ridges,
and earth split-open hides river sails deep.
Leaves clatter at heaven’s clarity. I listen,
and face deer at my bramble gate: so close
here, we touch our own kind in each other.
Night at the Tower
Yin and yang cut brief autumn days short. Frost and snow
clear, leaving cold night wide-open at the edge of heaven.
Marking the fifth watch, grieving drums and horns erupt.
Star River, shadows trembling, drifts Triple-Gorge depths.
War’s pastoral weeping filling homes far and wide, tribal
woodcutters and fishermen trail wild song here into skies.
History’s heroes, history’s villains: all dark earth in the end.
And the story of our lives just opens away—vacant, silent.
Opposite a Post-Station, My Boat
Moonlit Beside a Monastery
The boat mirroring crystalline moonlight
deep into the night, I leave candles unlit.
Golden monastery beyond green maples,
crimson post-tower beside lucent water:
faint, drifting from the city, a crow’s cry
fades. Full of wild grace, egrets drowse.
Hair lit white, guest of rivers and lakes,
I tie blinds open and sit alone, sleepless.
Leaving the City
It's frost-bitter cold, and late, and falling
frost traces my gaze all bottomless skies.
Smoke trails out over distant salt mines.
Snow-covered peaks slant shadows east.
Armies haunt my homeland still, and war
drums throb in this far-off place. A guest
overnight here in this river city, I return
again to shrieking crows, my old friends.
A sliver of moon lulls through clear night.
Half abandoned to sleep, lampwicks char.
Deer roam, uneasy among howling peaks,
and falling leaves startle locusts. Suddenly,
I remember mince treats east of the river,
and that boat drifting through falling snow.
Tribal song trails out, rifling the stars. Here
at the edge of heaven, I inhabit my absence.
8th Moon, 17th Night: Facing the Moon
The autumn moon is still round tonight.
In this river village, isolate old wanderer
hoisting blinds, I return to its brilliance,
and propped on a cane, follow it further:
radiance rousing hidden dragons, bright
scatters of birds aflutter. Thatched study
incandescent, I trust to this orange grove
ablaze: clear dew aching with fresh light.
Past midnight, eluding tigers on the road, I return
home in mountain darkness. Family asleep inside,
I watch the Northern Dipper drift low to the river,
and Venus lofting huge into empty space, radiant.
Holding a candle in the courtyard, I call for more
light. A gibbon in the gorge, startled, shrieks once.
Old and tired, my hair white, I dance and sing out:
goosefoot cane, no sleep . . . Catch me if you can!