What is a summary of the poem "The Fine Lady" by Du Fu?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Du Fu was a poet who wrote during the Tang Dynasty (China). Renowned for his "extensive occasional verse," many of Du Fu's poetry spoke to the journeys one took during life. Du Fu's poem "The Fine Lady" exemplifies this idea.

"The Fine Lady" is a poem which details the past and present life of a woman. During her past, the woman was loved for her beauty and for her nobility. Her family slain, the woman lost all of her worldly wealth. As if her loss to this point was not enough, her husband left her for a younger woman.

The woman contrasts her lost love to the love of the mandarin ducks (which "stay mated, never lonely"). No longer a part of her husband's life, she wonders if he can even hear her cry. Broke and destitute, the woman's maid was required to sell her last pearl (to purchase what is not stated--one can only assume that it is sold in order to survive).

The final lines of the poem refer to the woman's poverty ridden state. Her thin silk offers no protection from the cold. She leans upon a bamboo (a symbol if virtue in China).

Essentially, the poem speaks to the life of a woman who had everything she had needed. As she aged, she lost her family and her husband. No longer taken care of, it is up to the woman to care for herself. She is saddened by the fact that she has aged and that so much has changed in her life. In the end, she (symbolized by the bamboo) remains virtuous.


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