Lament on the Defeat at Chentao
In early winter noble sons of household good
Blended with water in Chentao mires their pure blood.
No more war cry under the sky on the vast plain,
In one day forty thousand loyal warriors slain.
The enemy came back with blood-stained arrows long;
They drank in market place and shouted barbarous song.
Our countrymen turned north their faces bathed in tears;
Day and night they expect the royal cavaliers.
The poet weeps over the forty thousand men slain by the rebels in Chentao and expects in vain the recovery of the lost land by the royal forces.
The poem “Lament on the Defeat at Chentao” is a work by Du Fu, a great poet of the Tang Dynasty. The poem tells the story of the battle between the Tang army and the An-shi rebels at Chentao in the winter of 756, the first year of Emperor Su Zong’s reign, in which almost all of the Tang army was wiped out. The first four lines render the solemn and heavy atmosphere after the defeat; the second four lines write first about the arrogance of the Hu soldiers and later about the desire of the people of Chang’an for the official army to recover Chang’an. The whole poem combines the subjective with the objective, and the feelings of hatred for the Hu soldiers, sorrow for the official army, sympathy for the people of Chang’an, and concern for the fate of the country are all coalesced in a specific scene, reflecting a kind of sad beauty.