Summary (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,...

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Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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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.

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