Posts Tagged ‘blossums’

“Alone, Looking for Blossoms Along the River” by Tu Fu


Alone, Looking for Blossoms Along the River

“The sorrow of riverside blossoms inexplicable,
And nowhere to complain — I’ve gone half crazy.
I look up our southern neighbor. But my friend in wine
Gone ten days drinking. I find only an empty bed.

A thick frenzy of blossoms shrouding the riverside,
I stroll, listing dangerously, in full fear of spring.
Poems, wine — even this profusely driven, I endure.
Arrangements for this old, white-haired man can wait.

A deep river, two or three houses in bamboo quiet,
And such goings on: red blossoms glaring with white!
Among spring’s vociferous glories, I too have my place:
With a lovely wine, bidding life’s affairs bon voyage.

Looking east to Shao, its smoke filled with blossoms,
I admire that stately Po-hua wineshop even more.
To empty golden wine cups, calling such beautiful
Dancing girls to embroidered mats — who could bear it?

East of the river, before Abbot Huang’s grave,
Spring is a frail splendor among gentle breezes.
In this crush of peach blossoms opening ownerless,
Shall I treasure light reds, or treasure them dark?

At Madame Huang’s house, blossoms fill the paths:
Thousands, tens of thousands haul the branches down.
And butterflies linger playfully — an unbroken
Dance floating to songs orioles sing at their ease.

I don’t so love blossoms I want to die. I’m afraid,
Once they are gone, of old age still more impetuous.
And they scatter gladly, by the branchful. Let’s talk
Things over, little buds —open delicately, sparingly.”

-Tu Fu

This poem starts out following the narrator, Tu Fu, as he observes the blossoms along the side of a river. He tries to visit his southern neighbor, but the neighbor is gone.The blossoms skew his view of the river. He knows that arrangements for an old man can wait. The river is deep with a few houses in the bamboo and surrounded by red and white blossoms. He admires a wine shop and wishes he was drinking with beautiful girls. Before Abbot Huang’s grave, spring seems so frail. He doesn’t know whether he likes the light red or dark red blossoms better. At Madam Huang’s house there are thousands of blossoms with butterflies and orioles. Tu Fu doesn’t love the blossoms so much because he knows they need to die, but is still afraid of what happens after they’re gone. He wants them to instead take their time opening.

One of the things that is very difficult in this poem is the lack of clarity. Although some may say that poetry both by Tu Fu and other poets from this era in this style is very precise and clean, the lack of proper grammar leaves many different interpretations open. This definately creates a barrier in understanding the author’s meaning. For instance, it took a very long time for me to decide on a meaning for the line, “I don’t so love blossoms I want to die. I’m afraid, once they are gone, of old age still more impetuous”. The first sentence can mean several different things if punctuation is changed just slightly. He could mean that he doesn’t love blossoms and that he wants to die, or he could mean he doesn’t love the flowers which he wants to die. It definately can change interpretations significantly.

I do, however, think that Tu Fu has identified a very old, central concern of humanity: mortality. He juxtaposes the death of a close friend with the delicate blooms of spring. Everything is so shrouded between the alcohol that keeps coming up and the constant wave of blossoms blowing through the air; you can hardly see where you’re walking. All of this fogginess makes it less easy to see where you are going, which is generally better than thinking about death all the time. This is illustrated when he puts of “making arrangements for the white haired man”, a phrase generally associated with arranging for a funeral and burial. Things seem to take up much more importance than they do in the blur of wine and blooms. Instead of worrying about this arrangement the narrator worries about finding more wine and women, which color blossom he likes better, and listening to birds singing. This distracts him from his fear at the rate the blossoms are opening and then dying off, tying back in with his fear of how fast life is moving and how inevitable the passage of time is.