Twenty-Two Rhymes To Left-Prime-Minister Wei
Boys in fancy clothes never starve,
but Confucian scholars often find their lives in ruin.
Please listen to my explanation, Sir,
I, your humble student, ask permission to state my case.
When I was a younger Du Fu
I was honored as a national distinguished guest
and wore out ten thousand books in reading,
My brush was always inspired by gods,
my rhymed essays rivaled those of Yang Xiong,1
my poems were kin with those of Cao Zijian.2
Li Yong looked for a chance to meet me,
and even Wang Han3 wanted to be my neighbor.
I thought I was an outstanding person,
positioned at a key ferryboat route
and would assist an emperor like Yao or Shun,4
and make folk customs honest and simple again.
In the end this ambition withered.
I became a bard instead of a hermit,
and spent thirty years traveling on a donkey,
ate traveler’s rations in the luxury of the capital,
knocked on the door of the rich in the morning,
walked in the dust of fat horses in the evening,
ate leftover dishes and half-finished wine.
Wherever I went, I found misery hiding beneath.
When the emperor summoned me,
I was excited at this chance to stretch myself .
I saw blue sky but my wings just hung.
I was set back, had no scales to swim far.
I feel unworthy of your kindness,
and I know your sincerity:
in the presence of one hundred officials,
you read my best poems.
I am as happy as Gong Gong.5
Since it’s hard to imitate Confucius disciple Yuan Xian6
How can I feel unhappy about anything,
though my feet still drag as usual?
Now I plan to move east to the sea,
and leave the capital behind me in the west.
But I still feel attached to the Zhongnan Mountain,
and turn my head to look at the Wei River.
I think about my gratitude for one meal7
as I take departure from you, Prime Minister.
This white gull is lost in the waves.
Who can tame him in his journey of ten thousand miles?