(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“Spring Prospect,” Du Fu’s most famous poem, was written while he was held in Ch’ang-an and is characteristic of his verse, both in form and in subject matter. The poem seems to separate the artificial (the “nation” and the “city”) and the natural (“hills and streams”), only to erase this distinction when “grass and trees” are seen flourishing in Ch’ang-an at a time of destruction. The lines “feeling the times,/ flowers draw tears;/ hating separation,/ birds alarm the heart” are willfully ambiguous. Burton Watson, the translator, has given the flavor of the original by using dangling participles. Who is the implied subject of “feeling” or of “hating”? Is it the poet or the flowers and birds? Is nature sympathizing with humanity and the poet? Are the flowers crying over the political situation, or the birds suffering because Du Fu and his family are apart? On the other hand, the lines can be taken to mean that the poet is weeping on the flowers, symbols of beauty and renewal, while the birds’ songs stoke his emotional anguish. Thus, the poetry weaves humanity and nature together into one fabric.

The “beacon fires” of line 5, “Beacon fires three months running,” were used by the Chinese to maintain contact between garrisons; they would be lit at regular times to indicate that all was well. In the poem, their use for three months shows how long the emergency has lasted. The final two lines focus on the poet,...

(The entire section is 411 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Chou, Eva Shan. Reconsidering Tu Fu: Literary Greatness and Cultural Context. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cooper, Arthur, comp. Li Po and Tu Fu: Poems Selected and Translated with an Introduction and Notes. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1973.

Davis, A. R. Tu Fu. New York: Twayne, 1971.

Dissanayake, Wimal. “Self as Image in the Nature Poetry of Kalidasa and Du Fu.” In Self as Image in Asian Theory and Practice, edited by Roger T. Ames, with Thomas P. Kasulis and Wimal Dissanayake. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

Feng Yuean-chuen. A Short History of Classical Chinese Literature. Translated by Yang Hsien-Yi and Gladys Yang. Hong Kong: Joint Publishing, 1983.

Lin, Shuen-fu, and Stephen Owen, eds. The Vitality of the Lyric Voice: Shih Poetry from the Late Han to the T’ang. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986.

Owen, Stephen. “Tu Fu.” In The Great Age of Chinese Poetry: The High T’ang. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981.

Watson, Burton. Chinese Lyricism: Shih Poetry from the Second to the Twelfth Century, with Translations. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.

Watson, Burton. The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 1984.

Watson, Burton, ed. The Selected Poems of Du Fu. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Yu, Pauline, et al., eds. Ways with Words: Writing About Reading Texts from Early China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.