Du Mu Poem: On the Black River Pavilion – 杜牧《题乌江亭》









[1] 乌江亭:在今安徽省和县东北的乌江镇,唐时属乌江县。楚汉相争时,项羽兵败于此,自刎于乌江岸边。

[2] 不期:难以预料。期,预料。

[3] 江东:长江南岸苏州一带。项羽跟从叔父项粱从这里起兵。

On the Black River Pavilion

Du Mu

A hero can’t foretell victory or defeat.

Why should a loser not stand again on his feet?

There are so many talents on the Southern shore.

Who dare say, once defeated, he can’t win the war?

The Herculean King of Chu, when defeated by the king of Han, killed himself on the Block River in 202 BC.


The poem “On the Black River Pavilion” is a seven-line poem written by Du Mu, a poet of the Tang Dynasty. The poem discusses the theory of success and failure in war, and presents his own hypothetical conjectures about wars that have already ended in history. In the first line, he says that victory and defeat are commonplace in warfare. The second line criticizes Xiang Yu for not being broad-minded enough and lacking the temperament of a great general. The third and fourth lines envisage that Xiang Yu might be able to make a comeback if he returns to Jiangdong to regroup. The poem laments Xiang Yu’s negative death, but the main meaning is to criticize him for not being good at seizing opportunities, not being good at listening to others’ advice, and not being good at getting and using people.

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