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The View in Spring 1

Du, Fu 2 (712-770 CE)

The nation is broken;
Only mountains and rivers remain.
In Spring, the grass and trees grow wild in the capital.
When I feel sad about the civil war,
My tears splash down upon the flowers 3.
I am so consumed by sorrow over my separation from my family
That even the chirping of the birds sounds like crying.
Beacon fires 4 have continued for three months.
A letter from home is worth ten thousand ounces of gold.
Because I have scratched my head so much,
My white hair is falling out.
Now there is not even enough to hold a hairpin.


1 In 756 CE, the rebel troops stormed and captured the capital. Emperor Xuan-zong fled to Shu. Soon after, his son, Su-zong, declared emperorship at Ling-wu City. In June 756 CE, rebel troops attacked and occupied Tong-guan City. Du fled with his wife and children to Fu-zhou City. In August, Du resolved to go by himself to Ling-wu City to serve Emperor Su-zong. On his way there the rebel troops caught him and sent him back to the old capital, Chang-an. Because of his low-ranking position, he did not completely lose his freedom. He was still allowed to travel inside the city. This poem was written during that time.

2 Zi-mei was Fu Du's alternative first name. He was a native of Gong-xian City in Henan Province. His additional names were Du-ling-bu-yi, Shao-ling-ye-lao, Xiang-yang-du-fu, Du-shao-ling, Du-gong-bu, or Du-shi-yi. He was a grandson of Shen-yan Du. During the late Kai-yuan Period, he roamed all over China after he failed the Advanced Exam. He had made his home in Chang-an, the capital of the Tang dynasty, for almost ten years. After the rebellion led by Lu-shan An and Si-ming Shi was crushed, Du was appointed Advisor to the emperor. Later, he became a staff officer who assessed the competence of the personnel at Hua-zhou City. Soon after he resigned his position and moved to the State of Shu. He built a thatched hut by Wan-hua Creek and became an aide to Wu Yan, the Military Commissioner of the Jian-nan District. In his late years, he left the State of Shu with his family and died from a sickness in a boat on the Xiang River. His poems deeply reflected the social problems during his time, so he was called the Historian Poet or the Sage of Poetry. He mastered the l-shi (similar to heptameter) style and the ancient style of poetry. His poems were elegant, profound and rich in variety. The pause and transition in rhythm fully expressed his passions. It can be said that his poems were compositions that embodied contributions of previous generations and served as models for later generations.

3 This line means "Even beautiful flowers cannot divert me from my sorrow."

4 A beacon fire was originally used as a signal by which one watchtower informed the next watchtower of the enemy's invasion. Here the meaning of beacon fires is extended to refer to the flames of war.