The Tied-Up Chickens

Du Fu

The Tied-Up Chickens

My little servant bound the chickens
ready to take them to market

of course they didn’t like that
they flapped, cackled, struggled

my family doesn’t like to see
chickens devour worms and bugs

but they ought to realize
the chickens will be boiled

should human beings take sides
between the bugs and chickens?

I call out to the servant,
“Untie them, let them run free!”

Chickens or bugs, gains and losses —
it’s never going to be settled,

I think as I lean on this hilltop house
and gaze at the cold river.

The poet David Young’s Du Fu: A Life in Poetry offers 170 poems from the great Tang Dynasty poet’s work, carrying us through his life’s journey — he was known as a journeying poet, rarely in one place for long — and offering fresh translations of these poems that have been with us since the 8th century. / From Knopf poem a day / National Poetry Month