Watching the Plum Blossoms
Lu You (1125-1209)
The plum trees bloom above the gold grass hill —
Though old, a man cannot enjoy their fluff?
Light mist, the moon, the far-off cattle still —
There’s life and death; don’t fret the common stuff.
Kàn Méi Jué Jù
Méi huā yí hán gēng yí yīn
Mó suō zhǔ zhàng guò xī xún
Yōu xiāng zhù rén suǒ guǎn lǐng
Bù xìn rú jīn tiě shí xīn
Transliteration and Notes
Watching Plum-Blossoms Quatrain Verse
Watch plum-blossoms tree beneath yellow grass hill
Old man still can love flowers not
Moon tepid mist far hear cattle whistle
Death life common matters not must worry
Lu You was a prominent poet of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). He was born just as the Song Dynasty lost their capital and the northern territories to invasions by the Jurchens, who formed the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234). As a result, Lu You’s family fled south. Both Jin, and then Song, would later fall to the Mongolians, led by Kublai Khan.
The poet was a longtime advocate against the Jin and was dismissed from his civil post for being too jingoistic. He then joined the military and wrote patriotic poems, but his military career was also unsuccessful.
Lu maintained a lifelong love for his cousin and first wife, whom his parents forced him to divorce (children had to follow their parents’ orders at the time, even as adults). He wrote poems about her from age 31 to age 85, the year before his death. The latter became a traditional opera and their love story is well known in China.