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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]

Paul Rouzer :: In the third couplet, Du Fu then turns from the world of nature and the immediate world around him, and contemplates the length of time that he has been separated from his family, and the almost seeming endless duration of the horrible rebellion against which he is caught.

Here he juxtaposes two forms of communication, the so-called "beacon fires" (and in ancient China this was a way of communicating between armies: each particular detachment of troops would light a beacon fire on a hill, the following other detachments of troops would see this beacon fire from far away and light their own beacon fires, and so forth, as a way of quickly communicating battle calls or the movement of troops) — he contrasts this form of communication with another form of communications, letters from his own family.

And ironically juxtaposes these two forms of communications, saying that the one, the communication of a public, violent nature, is blocking the other form of communication, the peaceful, private letters from his family.

And he also, rather interestingly, juxtaposes the duration of the beacon fires — three months — against the cost of letters, the seeming cost of letters from his family. The long length of the rebellion, three months so far, has so-to-speak, "upped" the price of the letter. The longer the beacon fires last, the more expensive letters from home are worth to him.