Ballad of the Ancient Cypress
by Tu Fu
An ancient cypress stands before Chu-ko Liang's temple,
branches like bronze, roots like stone. Forty feet
around, bark frost-covered and flooded with rain,
it blends darkness into sky for two thousand feet.
Because king and minister met destiny together
people still cherish this tree, When clouds come,
sending vapor the length of Wu Gorge, and the rising
moon casts a white chill across the Snow Mountains,
I think of a road winding east from my Brocade Pavilion
to that secluded temple Chu-ko Liang and his king share:
cragged trunk and branch also tower there, over ancient
plains, over empty doors and windows, dim paintings. . . .
Though its gnarled roots have spread far and deep,
to stand so distant and alone, so high in violent winds,
divine powers must nurture it. Such undeviating strength--
its source must be Creation. If a great, crumbling hall
needed roof-beams, even ten-thousand oxen would gaze
helplessly at such mountainous weight. Not yet revealed
by any craftsman's art, it already awes the world.
It doesn't resist being cut, but who could cart it away?
Though its bitter heart hasn't escaped gutting by ants,
its fragrant leaves still harbor roosting phoenixes.
No need for sullen laments-- O aspirant and recluse
alike, a great nature has always been hardest to employ.