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Falling Snow #2

© 2008
BASID #782

Beth Ames Swartz
Falling Snow #2
acrylic and mixed media on canvas
48" x 60" (1.22m x 1.52m)

杜甫 (Du Fu, also Romanized as Tu Fu, 712770 a.c.e., Chinese)


Facing the Snow




Weeping over battle, many new ghosts,


In sorrow reciting poems, an old man all alone.


A tumult of clouds sinks downward in sunset,


Hard-pressed, the snow dances in the whirlwinds.


Ladle cast down, no green lees1 in the cup,


The brazier lingers on, fire seems crimson.


From several provinces now news has ceased—


I sit here in sorrow tracing words in air.

Translation Selected

     Owen, Stephen. The Great Age of Chinese Poetry: the High T’ang. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1981, 201, 390-1 (10973).

     1.  lees:   Solids, a result of fermentation, that are found on the bottom of a vat; these solid particles are comprised of grape skins, pulp, and yeast. The Chinese word, liok, means dark green or blue-black, and, as an attribute of wine, it indicates a strong and thick brew. Owen concludes liok probably does not describe the wine liquid at all, but rather the “lees,” known as dark-green ants (liok-ngyĕ).

          Hinton (describing a different Du Fu poem with a similar title that he translates as Facing Snow) explains the Chinese expression, floating-ant wine, interpreted by Owen as green lees as follows: “Expensive wine was fermented in silver jars covered with cloth. In the process, a layer of scum formed on top. When this worthless layer was skimmed off and sold to those who could afford nothing better, it was called floating-ant wine.


Other English Translations

     Ayscough, Florence Wheelock and Lowell, Amy, trans. The Autobiography of a Chinese Poet, Vol. I, a.d. 712-759. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1929, 228-9.

     Alley, Rewi, trans. Du Fu: Selected Poems. Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1962 (as Tu Fu: Selected Poems), 2001, 68-9.

     Davis, A(lbert) R(ichard). Tu Fu. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1971, 52.

     Rexroth, Kenneth. One Hundred Poems from the Chinese. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1971, IV, 6.

     Seaton, J. P.& Cryer, James, trans. Bright Moon, Perching Birds: Poems. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1971, 1987, 65.

     Wu, Juntao, trans. Tu Fu—a New Translation. Hong Kong: The Commercial Press Ltd, 1981, 54-5.

     Hinton, David. The Selected Poems of Tu Fu. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1988, 1989, 26, 161.

     Hamill, Sam. Crossing the Yellow River: 300 Poems from the Chinese. Rochester, NY: BOA Editions, 2000, 163. Also, Hamill, Sam and Seaton, J. P., ed. & trans. The Poetry of Zen, Boston & London: Shambhala, 2004, 51. Also, Hamill, Sam, trans. Endless River. New York: Weatherhill, Inc., 1993, 61.

     Barnstone Tony and Chou, Ping, ed. & trans. The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry. New York: Random House, Inc., 2005, 132-3.

     Holyoak, Keith, trans. Facing the Moon: Poems of Li Bai and Du Fu. Durham, NH: Oyster River, 2007, 102-3.

     Dōngbō (東波). Online: http://www.mountainsongs.net/poem_.php?id=199.