The Ancient Cypress Tree

Tu, Fu   (712 A.D.-770 A.D.)

There is an ancient cypress tree in front of the Temple of Ming Kung.
Its branches are like bronze;
Its root sits like a huge rock.
Its bark is as white as frost.
The bark is so sleek that rain on the trunk will quickly slide down.
The tree is so wide that it takes forty people to embrace it.
The dark green crown shoots 200 feet high toward the sky.
Ming Kung and King Pei met at the right time to accomplish great work 1.
Now people still honor him and, therefore, treasure the tree in front of his temple.
The incoming clouds cover the tree and the river flowing through the long Wu Gorge.
The cold light of the rising moon illuminates the tree.
Its coldness seems to link to that of the white Snow Mountain.
I recall one day I traveled around the Colorful Gazebo from the east.
I found that the statues of King Pei and Ming Kung were placed in the same temple for worship.
The tree trunk towering at the suburb looks ancient.
The temple is vast and peaceful.
The paintings on the wall are magnificent and far-reaching.
Though the roots of the tree solidly attach to the ground,
Its towering top frequently endures strong wind.
The tree can survive because of the protection of the patron god.
It is a miracle of Mother Nature that the tree grows so tall and straight.
When a high-rise is leaning precipitously 2,
A strong column is required to support it.
This tree is heavy.
If 10,000 cattle were to attempt to haul it away,
They would turn their heads and wonder if they are towing a mountain.
The world is already amazed at its greatness,
Though the tree does not reveal the splendor of its wood.
Even if the tree were determined to sacrifice itself and be put into good use,
There would be no way to transport it.
Such a huge tree is vulnerable to the attack of termites
Although the fragrance of its leaves will eventually attract a phoenix to stay.
Talented and ambitious scholars should not complain.
Like this tree, those with great talent have seldom been utilized since ancient times.

1 King Pei recognized Ming Kung's talent. The king visited Ming Kung three times and asked him to be his Prime Minister. Kung refused after King Pei's first two visits, but finally accepted it at the third. Later, Kung helped King Pei win many wars and pursue the goal of unifying China. Tu used this poem to express his sorrow that Chinese government cannot utilize his talent.

2 At the time this poem was written, the rebel army stormed and captured the capital. Emperor Ming of the T'ang dynasty fled. The nation was at risk.