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WANG WEI (699-761)

LI BO (701-762)

"View in Springtime"
Couplet Three

"View in Springtime," by Du Fu

The country is smashed, hills and rivers remain.
The city turns to Spring, plants and trees grow deep.

Moved by the moment, flowers splash tears.
Resentful of parting, birds startle the heart.

Beacon fires have lasted for three months now.
Letters from home are worth 10,000 in gold.

I've scratched my white hairs ever scarcer,
until none will be left to hold hairpins to head.

[Translation by Paul Rouzer]

Robert Oxnam :: Du Fu is also a poet of everyday life. He is appealing to many readers because he uses comedy and irony to deflate his own importance, alluding to his own decline, his growing age, or his health problems. At the conclusion of "View in Springtime," he refers to "scratching his white hairs."

Paul Rouzer :: In this particular ending, he portrays himself scratching his head in perplexity. Because in ancient Chinese poems, poets would often scratch their heads when particularly confronted with sorrow, or with something they cannot understand. And in the process, has gradually thinned out his hair, so much to the extent that he can no longer place a cap upon his head.

And this, of course, has a further consequence for Du Fu, because in ancient China all bureaucratic officials wore caps on their heads. And because they wore their hair long, these particularly caps were attached to their heads with hairpins.

So in this particular line Du Fu is basically saying that the increasing emotional stress that he is suffering will eventually make him unfit to serve in the government.

And so, in one very succinct image, he combines all these particular moods. His concern about his own increasing age and failing health, his anxiety about no longer being able to serve the state. His own ironic comment upon this by portraying this particular image through the loss of his hair.