Selected poems by the Chinese poet Li Po

About Tu Fu

I met Tu Fu on a mountaintop 
in August when the sun was hot.

Under the shade of his big straw hat 
his face was sad--

in the years since we last parted, 
he'd grown wan, exhausted.

Poor old Tu Fu, I thought then, 
he must be agonizing over poetry again.

(transl. Hamil)

To Tu Fu from Shantung

You ask how I spend my time-- 
I nestle against a treetrunk 
and listen to autumn winds 
in the pines all night and day.

Shantung wine can't get me drunk. 
The local poets bore me. 
My thoughts remain with you, 
like the Wen River, endlessly flowing.

(tr. Hamil)

Chuang Tzu and the Butterfly

Chuang Tzu in dream became a butterfly, 
And the butterfly became Chuang Tzu at waking. 
Which was the real--the butterfly or the man ? 
Who can tell the end of the endless changes of things? 
The water that flows into the depth of the distant sea 
Returns anon to the shallows of a transparent stream. 
The man, raising melons outside the green gate of the city, 
Was once the Prince of the East Hill. 
So must rank and riches vanish. 
You know it, still you toil and toil -- what for?