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 lü-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
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.