"Lone Wild Goose," "I Stand Alone," and "P’eng-ya Road," by Tu Fu, copyright © 2000 by Sam Hamill. Reprinted from Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese, translated and introduced by Sam Hamill.

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Feature on Hamill's translations.
Tu Fu (712-770)


Lone Wild Goose

Alone, the wild goose refuses food and drink,
his calls searching for the flock.

Who feels compassion for that single shadow
vanishing in a thousand distant clouds?

You watch, even as it flies from sight,
its plaintive calls cutting through you.

The noisy crows ignore it:
the bickering, squabbling multitudes.


I Stand Alone

A falcon hovers at the edge of the sky.
Two gulls drift slowly up the river.

Vulnerable while they ride the wind,
they coast and glide with ease.

Dew is heavy on the grass below,
the spider’s web is ready.

Heaven’s ways include the human:
among a thousand sorrows, I stand alone.


P’eng-ya Road

I remember fleeing the rebels
through dangerous northern canyons,

the midnight moon shining bright
on narrow P’eng-ya Road.

So poor we went on foot,
we were embarrassed meeting strangers.

A few birds sang in the valleys,
but we met no one returning.

My daughter was so starved she bit me,
she screamed her painful hunger.

I damped her mouth shut tight,
fearful of wolves and tigers.

She struggled hard against me,
she cried and cried.

My son was sympathetic
and searched the wilds for food.

Then five days of heavy rain arrived,
and we trudged through freezing mud.

We had no coats, no shelter,
we were dressed in cold, wet clothes.

Struggling, struggling, we made
but a mile or two each day.

We ate wild fruits and berries,
and branches made our roof.

Mornings we slogged through water;
evenings we searched for skyline smoke.

We stopped at a marsh
to prepare our climb to the pass,

and met a Mr. Sun
whose standards are high as clouds.

We came through the dark
and lamps were lit, gates opening before us.

Servants brought warm water
so we could bathe our aching feet.

They hung paper banners
in our honor.

Mrs. Sun came out with all her children.
They wept for our condition.

My children slept, exhausted,
until we roused them with food.

Our host took a vow
he’d always remain my brother.

His home was made our home,
to provide for every comfort.

Who could imagine in such troubled times
he’d bare his heart and soul?

A year has passed since that fated night.
The Barbarians still wage war.

If I had the wings of the wild goose,
I’d fly to be at his side.