As I post this, spring arrived some 55 minutes ago, at 3:45 PDT. Already the work of spring “is going on with joyful enthusiasm,” to borrow from John Muir. Even here in Southern California, where it was summer all winter, just knowing that the season has turned is a psychological effect, making the heart feel much lighter, and brighter.
Spring has always been particularly inspirational to poets. Today, I will share with you a spring poem by Tu Fu (Du Fu), one of the greatest of Chinese poets. He wrote the poem in 757, when he was captured by rebels during the An Lushan Rebellion (755-763), a revolt against the Tang Dynasty the engulfed the land in a long, devastating war. Tu Fu uses the images of flowers and birds to convey the sufferings experienced by the people during the rebellion.
This is my own version of the poem, based on a literal rendering of the Chinese characters and several English translations.
In the torn country, hills and rivers remain,
Spring comes to cities, grass and trees flourish.
Wartime touches even flowers to shed tears;
Lonely birds feel regret in their startled hearts.
Battle fires have burned for three moons;
News from home is worth ten thousand coins.
This white head I scratch has become so thin
That my pin can barely hold the strands in place.