Starlight Pavilion

The Fisherman

Qu Yuan, recently exiled, wandered the rivers and lakes, walking and singing by the shores of ponds. His countenance was sallow, his posture haggard. A fisherman saw him and asked, “Are you not the Lord of the Three Villages? Why have you arrived here?”

Qu Yuan said, “The whole world is turbid, only I am clear; everyone is drunk, only I am sober. Thus I faced exile.”

The fisherman said, “The great man does not dwell on material things; he can move with the world. If the world is turbid, why not stir its mud and raise its waves? If everyone is drunk, why not eat the dregs and drink the wine? Why ponder deeply and live aloof, and let yourself be exiled?”

Qu Yuan said, “I have heard that those who have newly washed their hair must flick their hats of dust; those who have newly bathed must shake their clothes of grime. How can I bring the cleanliness of my body to meet the murkiness of things? I’d rather swim in the flow of the Xiang and be buried in the stomachs of fish. How can I bring my glistening white to meet the dust of the world?

The fisherman smiled, hit the oars, and left, singing: “If the waters of the Canglang are clear, I can wash my capstrings; if the waters of the Canglang are turbid, I can wash my feet.” Thus he left, and did not speak again.

屈原旣放,遊於江潭,行吟澤畔,顔色憔悴,形容枯槁。漁父見而問之曰:「子非三閭大夫歟?何故至於斯?」

屈原曰:「擧世皆濁我獨淸,衆人皆醉我獨醒。是以見放。」

漁父曰:「聖人不凝滯於物,而能與世推移。 世人皆濁,何不淈其泥而揚其波?衆人皆醉,何不餔其糟而歠其釃?何故深思高擧,自令放爲?」

屈原曰:「吾聞之,新沐者必彈冠,新浴者必振衣。安能以身之察察,受物之汶汶者乎?寧赴流,葬於江魚之腹中。安能以皓皓之白,而蒙世俗之塵埃乎?」

漁父莞爾而笑,鼓枻而去,乃歌曰: 「滄浪之水淸兮,可以濯吾纓, 滄浪之水濁兮,可以濯吾足。」 遂去,不復與言。

My translation of Yufu 漁父, “The Fisherman”, a narrative poem from the Songs of Chu, which was first anthologized in the second century. Shortly after the events described here, Qu Yuan drowns himself in the Miluo River.

November 2019