杜甫 Du Fu: Even beggars, chooses

Even beggars on the brink of starvation, especially poetic ones like Du Fu, chooses…

官定后戏赠

作者: 杜甫

不作河西尉,凄凉为折腰。
老夫怕趋走,率府且逍遥。
耽酒须微禄,狂歌托圣朝。
故山归兴尽,回首向风飙。

(时免河西尉,为右卫率府兵曹参军。)

.

I FINALLY GET A POST

by Du Fu

Oh good, I don’t have to be
police commissioner at Hexi!

it would have been backbreaking
supervising all those beatings

I’m an old man, I can’t
rush around, bustle, and strut

but the job they’ve given me now
at Palace Guard headquarters

won’t take too much time
it will pay for my wine

and allow me to go on
writing these crazy poems

so no more thoughts about retirement
back in the hills of home

I turn my back on that
and set my face to the wind.

———————————

[footnote by the translator, David Young]:
An extraordinary combination of self-mockery, relief, and irony. All of his aspirations for high office have come down to a fairly humiliating outcome: Du Fu had been offered a post as police commissioner of Hexi. The work would be “backbreaking” in two senses: he would be bowing constantly to superiors, and he would be supervising the beatings of common people. He turned it down. He then was offered a minor job in the office of the commandant of the crown prince’s palace guard, without almost any real duties. He accepts it wryly and writes this poem to commemorate the end of both his career aspirations and his dream of retiring to a hermit’s life.

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