Crossing the Yangtze River
Du Shenyan (645-708)
Late afternoon, this garden grove, where ancient sorrow roams;
It’s spring, but birds and blossoms too do fill the edge with dread.
Alone, expelled, down south in savage lands, my homeland far—
The Yangtze River water flow shows not its northern tread.
Dù Xiāng Jiāng
Chí rì yuán lín bēi xī yóu
Jīn chūn huā niǎo zuò biān chóu
Dú lián jīng guó rén nán cuàn
Bù sì xiāng jiāng shuǐ běi liú
Transliteration and Notes
Crossing Xiang River
Late day garden grove sorrow ancient roams
Now spring flowers birds make border anxiety
Alone pity capital county person south exiled
Not seem Xiang River water northern flow
· Du Shenyan was a poet, calligrapher, minor government official, and the grandfather of Du Fu, one of China’s greatest poets. He himself was a good poet and one of his poems was included in the classic 300 Tang Dynasty Poems anthology.
· The Xiang River is a tributary to Lake Dongting, which is a flood basin in the middle of the great Yangtze River, the world’s longest river within a single country. Its basin is home to one third of modern China’s population.
· At this time, the south of China was relatively uncivilized compared to the north; this genre of complaining about being exiled to the hinterlands was a common theme in Chinese poetry. In this case, though the Yangtze River flows northward, the poet says it seems like it does not, since he is stuck in the south and cannot sail back home.