AN ANCIENT CRYPUS TRAVELS ACROSS TIME 古柏行 by Du Fu: A NEW TRANSLATION

AN ANCIENT CRYPUS TRAVELS ACROSS TIME ( 杜甫; pinyin: Dù Fǔ; 712 – 770) Gu Bo Xing

At the front entrance of Kong Ming shrine, an ancient cyprus shines,
Root anchors into rocks, bronze like verdant branches, spread out fine.
Frosted bark, with slippery sheen in rain, measures forty spans around,
Jets into the dark sky at two thousand feet, it complements the surround.
At an opportune time, place and event, the master and his lord meet,
The tree epitomizes mutual devotion, remains still in time, to greet.
Air turbulence shifts clouds and rain to Wuxia Gorge, its vastness expands,
From snowy mountains to crprus, the moon casts its reflection, the cold stands.

In bygone days, remembrance of eastern pavilion and hut, my mind meanders,
To a shared secluded temple, where the military commanders and his lord, gather.
In the outskirt of an ancient plane, the giant trunk of the crypus, towers,
Without red and black painting and murals, chamber is empty and tatters.
The crypus spread far and wide, the earth is firmly held,
In the dimmed and lonely heights, violent wind is quelled.
The strength from heaven helps to sustain,
The power of creator, stand upright to gain.

To prevent a great hall from collapse, strong rafters and beams are required,
Even ten thousand oxen would turn heads and wonder the weight they mired.
Humble in its inner strength, the world of man is amazed,
To fell without trimming, the utility cannot be appraised.
Despite hearty intention, termites could invade and erode,
Its fragrant leaves always provide phoenix with good abode.
Ambitious scholars and reclusive hermits do not sigh and resent,
In the past, great talents are always hard to bend ideas and dent.

古柏行

孔明庙前有老柏
柯如青铜根如石
霜皮溜雨四十围
黛色参天二千尺
君臣已与时际会
树木犹为人爱惜
云来气接巫峡长
月出寒通雪山白

忆昨路绕锦亭东
先主武侯同閟宫
崔嵬枝干郊原古
窈窕丹青户牖空
落落盘踞虽得地
冥冥孤高多烈风
扶持自是神明力
正直原因造化功

大厦如倾要梁栋
万牛回首丘山重
不露文章世已惊
未辞剪伐谁能送
苦心岂免容蝼蚁
香叶终经宿鸾凤
志士幽人莫怨嗟
古来材大难为用

Du Fu was one of three great poets of Tang Dynasty. I regret to comment that all three poets suffered disappointment in their bureaucratic pursuits, notably Li Bei. Qu Bo Xing was written in seven-character regulated verses, with phonic sounds that cannot be translated. Instead I use end-rhyme to make reading in English easier. I hope that my translation is an improvement. The title Xing, means travel or action in deeds and words. I take the liberty to translate it as a travel across time/space dimension, in the spirit of the poetry. Some translate the title as “Ballad of an Ancient Crypus”, as it is a lyrical poem, with historical events juxtaposed and transposed with natural scenes. The pun in the last two lines reflect the disappointment of Chinese intellectuals down the dynasties.

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