Du Fu

(712 - 770 / Henan Province / China)

The Pitiful Young Prince - Poem by Du Fu

Hooded crows fly at night
over the walls of Chang'an,
uttering harsh cries
above Welcoming Autumn Gate,
then head for people's houses,
pecking at the lofty roofs,
roofs beneath which high officials
scurry to escape barbarians.
The golden whip is broken in two,
the nine horses are run to death,*
but it is still not possible
for all of royal blood to flee together...

In plain sight below his waist
a precious ornament of blue coral,
the pitiful prince stands weeping
at the corner of the road.
When I ask, he refuses to tell
either name or surname;
he only speaks of his desperation,
and begs to become my slave.
For a hundred days now
he has lain hidden in brambles;
there is no whole skin left
on his entire body.
But the sons and grandsons of Gao-zu
all have the same noses-
the dragon-seed, naturally,
differs from that of ordinary men.

Jackals and wolves in the city,
dragons lurking in the wilds,
the prince had better take care
of that thousand-tael body!*
I don't dare talk long here
in plain view by the crossroads,
but for the sake of my prince
I will stay for a moment.
Last night the east wind
blew in the stench of blood,
and camels from the east
filled the former Capital.*
The Shuo-fang veterans
were known as skilled warriors,
they always seemed so fierce,
but now how foolish they look!
It is rumored that the Son of Heaven
has already abdicated,
but also that the Khan
is lending his support,
that the men of Hua gashed their faces
and begged to wipe out this disgrace.
Say nothing! Someone else
may be hiding and listening.
Alas, Prince, you must be careful,
stay on guard,
and may the spirits of the Five Tombs*
watch over you always.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010

Poem Edited: Monday, May 9, 2011


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