Du Fu: Pebble On the Tongue

A handful of lyrical lines can whisper to the traveler 

– how vast is the sea of creative beauty

– how deep the wistfulness of soul 

– how strong the yearning in our sojourn

– how paltry our grasp of the great yonder

– how precious to find company midst ‘silent peaks’

The much-renovated Keutsang Hermitage and pilgrim site in Tibet.  It would formerly have been a spare shelter against the cliff frequented by intense and solitary souls.  But a grove and echoing rock face at altitude fill out a scene similar to the setting of Du Fu’s famous poem here translated by Kenneth Rexroth.  The poet’s lines are of interest because they arose during troubled times: famine, war, illness and mass death.    Photo credit: wikipedia


Written On the Wall at Chang’s Hermitage

It is spring in the Mountains.
I come alone seeking you.
The sound of chopping wood echoes
Between the silent peaks.
The streams are still icy.
There is snow on the trail.
At sunset I reach your grove
In the stony mountain pass.
You want nothing, although at night
You can see the aura of gold
And silver ore all around you.
You have learned to be gentle
As the mountain deer you have tamed.
The way back forgotten, hidden
Away, I become like you
An empty boat, floating, adrift.      

Du Fu, poet-sage (d. 770 CE)

2 thoughts on “Du Fu: Pebble On the Tongue

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