Jade Flower Palace 

Tu Fu, translated by Kenneth Rexroth 

            The stream swirls. The wind moans in 
            The pines. Gray rats scurry over 
            Broken tiles. What prince, long ago, 
            Built this palace, standing in 
5          Ruins beside the cliffs? There are 
            Green ghost fires in the black rooms. 
            The shattered pavements are all 
            Washed away. Ten thousand organ 
            Pipes whistle and roar. The storm 
10        Scatters the red autumn leaves. 
            His dancing girls are yellow dust. 
            Their painted cheeks have crumbled 
            Away. His gold chariots 
            And courtiers are gone. Only 
15        A stone horse is left of his 
            Glory. I sit on the grass and 
            Start a poem, but the pathos of 
            It overcomes me. The future 
            Slips imperceptibly away. 
20        Who can say what the years will bring? 

 

Making Meanings

Jade Flower Palace

1. Write your thoughts on Tu Fu’s question, “Who can say what the years will bring?” 

2. The similarities between this poem and Shelley’s “Ozymandias” are striking. Like these eighth- and eighteenth-century observers, you can also ponder the ruins of power. Explore the differences and similarities between “Jade Flower Palace” and “Ozymandias.” 

3. To write a poem on the same theme today, what physical site would you choose? (It might be an abandoned site, not necessarily a destroyed one.) What objects would you focus on?

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