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Tu Fu:
 “Thoughts While Traveling at Night”

(37 Translations)



My Reflection by Night

 Some scattered grass. A shore breeze blowing light.
A giddy mast. A lonely boat at night.
The wide-flung stars o’erhang all vasty space.
The moonbeams with the Yangtze’s current race.
How by my pen can I to fame attain?
Worn out, from office better to refrain.
Drifting o’er life — and what in sooth am I?
A sea-gull floating twixt the Earth and Sky.

Translated by W.J.B. Fletcher (1919)

A Night Abroad

A light wind is rippling at the grassy shore. . . .
Through the night, to my motionless tall mast,
The stars lean down from open space,
And the moon comes running up the river.
. . . If only my art might bring me fame
And free my sick old age from office! —
Flitting, flitting, what am I like
But a sand-snipe in the wide, wide world!

Translated by Witter Bynner (1929)

A Traveller at Night Writes His Thoughts

Fine    grass;    slight    breeze    from bank;
High    mast;    alone    at night    in boat.

Over level    widening    waste    stars    droop-flowers;
Moon    flows as water    on vast    surging    stream.

Fame!    is it    manifest    by essays,    poems?
An official,    old,    sick,    should    rest.

What    do I    resemble,    blown by wind    blown by wind?
A gull    on the sand    between    Heaven    and Earth.

Literal character-by-character translation by Florence Ayscough (1934)

Thoughts While Traveling at Night

Between two shores of tender grass, in the slight breeze, Glides this lonely high-masted boat. The stars seem to reach down to the fields, flat and wide; The moon seems to be swimming as the Great River flows.

Am I really to achieve an honored name in literature? I ought to give up all hopes of official service because of age and illness. To what shall I compare myself, as I am blown about? Just a beach gull between heaven and earth.

Translated by William Hung (1952)

Night Thoughts While Travelling

A light breeze rustles the reeds
Along the river banks. The
Mast of my lonely boat soars
Into the night. Stars blossom
Over the vast desert of
Waters. Moonlight flows on the
Surging river. My poems have
Made me famous but I grow
Old, ill and tired, blown hither
And yon; I am like a gull
Lost between heaven and earth.

Translated by Kenneth Rexroth (1956)

Night Thoughts of a Traveller

Thin reeds, and from the land
A soft breeze; our mast stands
Tall and stark in the night
And I am alone; stars hang
Over the great plain, and
The moon moves with the flowing river;
Fame may not come together
With literary merit;
A broken-down, worn-out
Official should simply rest!
It seems I am but as a sand bird
Blown before the elements.

Translated by Rewi Alley (1962)

A Night Abroad

A light wind is rippling at the grassy shore. . . . 
Through the night, to my motionless tall mast, 
The stars lean down from open space, 
And the moon comes running up the river. 
. . . If only my art might bring me fame 
And free my sick old age from office! — 
Flitting, flitting, what am I like 
But a sand-snipe in the wide, wide world! 

Translated by A.R. Davis (1962)

Traveling night write thoughts

Fine grass slight wind bank
Tall mast lonely night boat
Stars hang-down level plain vastness
Moon bobs-from great-river’s flow
Name how literature famous
Office due-to age-sickness resigned
Drifting-drifting what-am like
Sky-earth one sand-gull

Translated by David Hawkes (literal character-by-character version, 1965)


Thoughts Written While Travelling at Night

By the bank where the fine grass bends in a gentle wind, my boat’s tall mast stands in the solitary night. The stars hang down over the great emptiness of the level plain, and the moon bobs on the running waters of the Great River. Literature will bring me no fame. A career is denied me by my age and sickness. What do I most resemble in my aimless wanderings? A seagull drifting between earth and sky!

Translated by David Hawkes (prose version, 1965)

Thoughts on a Night Journey

Reeds by the bank bending, stirred by the breeze,
High-masted boat advancing alone in the night,
Stars drawn low by the vastness of the plain,
The moon rushing forward in the river’s flow.
How should I look for fame to what I have written?
In age and sickness, how continue to serve?
Wandering, drifting, what can I take for likeness?
— A gull that wheels alone between earth and sky.

Translated by Cyril Birch (1965)

A Traveler at Night Writes His Thoughts

Delicate grasses, faint wind on the bank;
stark mast, a lone night boat:
stars hang down, over broad fields sweeping;
the moon boils up, on the great river flowing.
Fame — how can my writings win me that?
Office — age and sickness have brought it to an end.
Fluttering, fluttering — where is my likeness?
Sky and earth and one sandy gull.

Translated by Burton Watson (1971)

Night Thoughts Afloat

By bent grasses
in a gentle wind
Under straight mast
I’m alone tonight,

And the stars hang
above the broad plain
But moon’s afloat
in this Great River:

Oh, where’s my name
among the poets?
Official rank?
“Retired for ill-health.”

Drifting, drifting,
what am I more than
A single gull
between sky and earth?

Translated by Arthur Cooper (1973)

Thoughts While Travelling at Night

A faint wind
     through the fine grasses
     on the shore;
High mast
     and lonely boat
     in the night.
The stars reach down to the wide level fields,
The moon rushes on
     in the swing of the Great River.

Shall I ever make a name in poetry?
Old and sick,
     it is time for me to retire.
Driven this way and that like —
     what shall I say?
Like a solitary gull
     blown between earth and sky!

Translated by Innes Herdan (1973)

Night Thoughts

Tufts of grass on the bank
Stirred by the breeze.
A lone boat,
A tall mast in the night.
Stars hanging low
Over wild land and tilled field.
Moonlight shimmering
On the swift-flowing Great River.
How can I win fame
By the work of my pen?
Worn out in public service,
I am wiser to resign.
Tossed about
In the whirlwinds of life,
What am I?
A seagull hovering
’Twixt heaven and earth!

Translated by Henry H. Hart (1974)

Night Thoughts Aboard a Boat

A bank of fine grass and light breeze,
A tall-masted solitary night boat.
Stars descend over the vast wild plain;
The moon bobs in the Great River’s flow.
Fame: is it ever to be won in literature?
Office: I should give up, old and sick.
Floating, floating, what am I like?
Between earth and sky, a gull alone.

Translated by James J.Y. Liu & Irving Y. Lo (1975)

Thoughts of a Night on Board

Slender grasses, a light breeze on the banks.
Tall mast, a solitary night on board.
A falling star, and the vast plain broader.
Surging moon, on the Great River flows.
Can fame grow from the written word alone?
The official, old and sick, must let it be.
Afloat, afloat, just so . . .
Heaven, and Earth, and one black gull.

Translated by Jerome P. Seaton (1982)


Thoughts While Traveling by Night

Slender grass, light breeze on the banks.
Tall mast, a solitary night on board.
A star falls, and the vast plain seems broader.
Surging moon, on the Great River flows.
Can fame grow from wen alone?
This servant of the people, now old and sick, must let that be.
Afloat, afloat, just so . . .
Heaven, and Earth, and one black gull.

Translated by Jerome P. Seaton (2006)

Thoughts When Travelling at Night

Between soft, grassy banks in the light breeze
A lone, tall-masted boat sails through the night;
Stars hang low above the wide, flat plain,
And up rides the moon as the mighty river flows on.
Since I have not in truth won fame by writing,
In old age and illness I should retire from office.
Drifting along, to what can I liken myself?
A lonely beach gull between heaven and earth.

Translated by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang (1984)

travel night write feelings

fine/thin grass/plants faint wind shore
high/precarious mast alone/lone night boat
stars hang level wilderness broad
moon gush/bubble great  river flow
name/fame how —literary writings— make known
office must old sick quit
fluttering fluttering what  —be resembled to—
Heaven Earth one sand gull

Literal translation by Stephen Owen (1985)


Writes of what he feels, traveling by night

Slender grasses, breeze faint on the shore,
Here, the looming mast, the lone night boat.
Stars hang down on the breadth of the plain,
The moon gushes in the great river’s current.
My name shall not be known from my writing;
Sick, growing old, I must yield up my post.
Wind-tossed, fluttering — what is my likeness?
In Heaven and Earth, a single gull of the sands.

Translated by Stephen Owen (1985)

Thoughts, Traveling at Night

In delicate beach-grass, a slight breeze.
The boat’s mast teetering up into solitary
Night, plains open away beneath foundering stars.
A moon emerges and, the river vast, flows.

How will poems bring honor? My career
Lost to age and sickness, buffeted, adrift
On the wind — is there anything like it? All
Heaven and earth, and one lone sand-gull.

Translated by David Hinton (1988)

Expressing My Feelings, on a Night of Travel

A fine grassy, light breezy bank;
A tall masted, lonesome night boat.
The stars droop, as flat wilds widen;
The moon bobs, in great Jiang’s flow.
Renown — by literature made known?
Office — old and sick, I should annul . . .
Tossing adrift — what is my likeness?
Heaven and earth — a single sand gull.

Translated by David R. McCraw (1992)

Thoughts While Travelling at Night

Light breeze on the fine grass.
I stand alone at the mast.

Stars lean on the vast wild plain.
Moon bobs in the Great River’s spate.

Letters have brought no fame.
Office? Too old to obtain.

Drifting, what am I like?
A gull between earth and sky.

Translated by Vikram Seth (1993)

Fine grasses and a light wind on the bank,
A tall mast, a solitary boat in the night,
Stars hang down over a vast level plain,
The moon undulates in the flow of the great River.
Has my name become known through literature?
My office is resigned due to illness and old age.
Drifting, drifting, what am I like?
A gull between heaven and earth.

Translated by Eva Shan Chou (1995)

Night Journey Thoughts

Bent grasses in slender breeze.
Boat’s mast high in empty night.
Starlight shining near the plain.
Moon floating on river’s light.
All this writing, but no name.
Illness and years, without a place.
Drifting, wandering, what am I?
A white bird over earth and sky.

Translated by A.S. Kline (2000)

Night Thoughts While Traveling

Thin grass bends on the breezy shore,
and the tall mast seems lonely in my boat.

Stars ride low across the wide plain,
and the moon is tossed by the Yangtze.

What is fame and literary status —
the old and infirm should leave office.

Adrift, drifting: what is left for the lone gull
adrift between earth and heaven.

Translated by Sam Hamill (2000)

Nocturnal Reflections While Traveling

Gently grass soft wind shore
Tall mast alone night boat
Stars fall flat fields broad
Moon rises great river flows
Name not literary works mark
Official should old sick stop
Flutter flutter what place seem
Heaven earth one sand gull

Translated by Mark Alexander (literal character-by-character version, 2001)


Nocturnal Reflections While Traveling

Gentle breeze on grass by the shore,
The boat's tall mast alone at night.
Stars fall; broad flat fields,
Moon rises; great river flows.
Have my writings not made any mark?
An official should stop when old and sick.
Fluttering from place to place I resemble,
A gull between heaven and earth.

Translated by Mark Alexander (2001)

Recording My Thoughts While Traveling at Night

A shore of thin reeds in light wind
A tall boat alone at night
Stars hang over the barren land
The moon rises out of the Yangtze
How could writing ever lead to fame
I quit my post due to illness and age
Drifting along what I am like
A solitary gull between Heaven and Earth

Translated by Red Pine (Bill Porter) (2003)

Night Thoughts Traveling

A light wind stirs
the fine beach grass

the tall mast stands
over this lone night boat

the stars hang close
above the level plain

the moon bobs along
in the great river

will poems like this
ever bring me fame?

age and sickness bar me
from holding a high office

drifting, drifting here
what am I really like?

a lone sand gull
somewhere between earth and sky.

Translated by David Young (2008)

Night Journey (after Tu Fu)

Wind bends the grass along the road.
A lonely truck passes by.
Stars reach down to touch these hills
and the moon drifts behind.

No one will ever know my poems.
I am too old and ill to work.
Circling, floating, who am I
but a vulture looking down.

Adaptation by Robert Okaji (Texas, 2014)

Night Sail

Soft wind gently through shore grass waving,
Alone by the tall mast, sailing at night.
Fields of stars stretch beyond seeing,
The great river flow is quavering moonlight.

My writing all, born for oblivion,
Myself, aged past thought by those today.
Heaven and Earth and I are all One,
Emerging as sand-gull wings flutter away.

Translated by Manuel Garcia, Jr. (2015)

A Night Traveler’s Thoughts

Soft grass, gentle breeze on the bank
Stark mast, single boat in the night
Stars droop as the level fields widen
Moon surges in the great river’s flow
A famous name — how can writings win that?
An official, old and sick, should quit
Drifting, drifting, what am I like?
Between heaven and earth, a lone seagull

Translated by Jake Holman and Tain Tzey-yue (date unknown)

Thoughts While Night Traveling

Slender wind shifts the shore’s fine grass.
Lonely night below the boat’s tall mast.
Stars hang low as the vast plain splays;
the swaying moon makes the great river race.
How can poems make me known?
I'm old and sick, my career done.
Drifting, just drifting. What kind of man am I?
A lone gull floating between earth and sky.

Translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping (date unknown)

Thoughts Written While Traveling at Night

       The fine grass
by the riverbank stirs in the breeze;
      the tall mast
in the night is a lonely sliver.
      Stars hang
all across the vast plain;
      the moon bobs
in the flow of the great river.
      My poetry
has not made a name for me;
      now age and sickness
have cost me the post I was given.
      Drifting, drifting,
what do I resemble?
      A lone gull
lost between earth and heaven.

Translated by Keith Holyoak (date unknown)

A Night Traveller’s Thoughts

Soft grassy bank   in the night breeze wafts,
Alone tonight,   this tall mast standing.
Stars hang right down   to the flat wide fields;
Moon rises from   the great course flowing.
Fame on its own
   what gets words noticed;
Old, sick servants   should be retiring.
Adrift in life
   just what am I now?
But a seagull
   purgatory; waiting.

Translated by Ray Brownrigg (date unknown)


Remembering Ken’s Tu Fu*

in marshes
my mast poles into
the starry field

as the moon floats by
wondering about fame

changing ages

and I flutter
a kestrel


Translated by Dan Potter (2007)

* because I woke up remembering
reading many versions of the famous poem
on your site . . .


Thirty-seven translations of Tu Fu’s (a.k.a. Du Fu) poem “Thoughts While Traveling at Night” (ca. 767 AD).

Copyright notice.

[Passages from other recommended works]

[Gateway to the Vast Realms]

[Rexroth essay on Tu Fu]




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