Du Fu

po_du-fuDu Fu (Tu Fu; Dù Fǔ; 712 – 770) was a prominent Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty.

Along with Li Bai (Li Po), he is frequently called the greatest of the Chinese poets. His greatest ambition was to serve his country as a successful civil servant, but he proved unable to make the necessary accommodations. His life, like the whole country, was devastated by the An Lushan Rebellion of 755, and his last 15 years were a time of almost constant unrest.

Although initially he was little-known to other writers, his works came to be hugely influential in both Chinese and Japanese literary culture. Of his poetic writing, nearly fifteen hundred poems have been preserved over the ages. He has been called the “Poet-Historian” and the “Poet-Sage” by Chinese critics, while the range of his work has allowed him to be introduced to Western readers as “the Chinese Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Shakespeare, Milton, Burns, Wordsworth, Béranger, Hugo or Baudelaire”.

Du Fu

My little servant bound the chickens
ready to take them to market

of course they didn’t like that
they flapped, cackled, struggled

my family doesn’t like to see
chickens devour worms and bugs

but they ought to realize
the chickens will be boiled

should human beings take sides
between the bugs and chickens?

I call out to the servant,
“Untie them, let them run free!”

Chickens or bugs, gains and losses —
it’s never going to be settled,

I think as I lean on this hilltop house
and gaze at the cold river.