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A song of a painting to General Cao – Du Fu

O General, descended from Wei’s Emperor Wu,
You are nobler now than when a noble….
Conquerors and their velour perish,
But masters of beauty live forever.
…With your brush-work learned from Lady Wei
And second only to Wang Xizhi’s,
Faithful to your art, you know no age,
Letting wealth and fame drift by like clouds.
…In the years of Kaiyuan you were much with the Emperor,
Accompanied him often to the Court of the South Wind.
When the spirit left great statesmen, on walls of the Hall of Fame
The point of your brush preserved their living faces.
You crowned all the premiers with coronets of office;
You fitted all commanders with arrows at their girdles;
You made the founders of this dynasty, with every hair alive,
Seem to be just back from the fierceness of a battle.
…The late Emperor had a horse, known as Jade Flower,
Whom artists had copied in various poses.
They led him one day to the red marble stairs
With his eyes toward the palace in the deepening air.
Then, General, commanded to proceed with your work,
You centred all your being on a piece of silk.
And later, when your dragon-horse, born of the sky,
Had banished earthly horses for ten thousand generations,
There was one Jade Flower standing on the dais
And another by the steps, and they marvelled at each other….
The Emperor rewarded you with smiles and with gifts,
While officers and men of the stud hung about and stared.
…Han Gan, your follower, has likewise grown proficient
At representing horses in all their attitudes;
But picturing the flesh, he fails to draw the bone-
So that even the finest are deprived of their spirit.
You, beyond the mere skill, used your art divinely-
And expressed, not only horses, but the life of a good man….
Yet here you are, wandering in a world of disorder
And sketching from time to time some petty passerby
People note your case with the whites of their eyes.
There’s nobody purer, there’s nobody poorer.
…Read in the records, from earliest times,
How hard it is to be a great artist.


将军魏武之子孙, 于今为庶为青门;
英雄割据虽已矣! 文采风流今尚存。
学书初学卫夫人, 但恨无过王右军。
丹青不知老将至, 富贵于我如浮云。
开元之中常引见, 承恩数上南熏殿,
凌烟功臣少颜色, 将军下笔开生面。
良相头上进贤冠, 猛将腰间大羽箭。
褒公鄂公毛发动, 英姿飒爽犹酣战。
先帝天马玉花骢, 画工如山貌不同。
是日牵来赤墀下, 迥立阊阖生长风。
诏谓将军拂绢素, 意匠惨淡经营中;
斯须九重真龙出, 一洗万古凡马空。
玉花却在御榻上, 榻上庭前屹相向;
至尊含笑催赐金, 圉人太仆皆惆怅,
弟子韩干早入室, 亦能画马穷殊相;
干惟画肉不画骨, 忍使骅骝气凋丧。
将军画善盖有神, 偶逢佳士亦写真;
即今漂泊干戈际, 屡貌寻常行路人。
涂穷反遭俗眼白, 世上未有如公贫;
但看古来盛名下, 终日坎壈缠其身。


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