Original poem reprinted online here: "Alone, Looking for Blossoms Along the River" by Tu Fu
Originally read: May 9, 2013
More information about the Poet: Tu Fu
Continuing on with the idea of metaphor, the speaker in this poem automatically compares himself to the blossoms along the river. Both are alone. Now, the reasons should unfold throughout the poem, but I want to explain the picture past me drew in the margins. The image of blossoms along the river are easy to visualize, but past me (and current me), doesn't quite see the connection. Or rather, when it comes to loneliness and nature, there are some other representative images, but it feels like the blossoms near the river either have an historically symbolic reason or a personal symbolic reason. Maybe a little bit of both.
Yet, the focus of the speaker's loneliness is further impacted with the drinking. "But my friend in wine / Gone ten days drinking" and then the image of the bed in which could be a symbol of lovers.
The following stanza has a weird opposite reaction, "in fear of spring. / Poems, wine -- even this profusely drive, I endure. / Arrangements for this old white-haired man can wait." Past me wrote, "opposite reaction -- Spring being more livelier, but what's more alone than feeling alone when everyone is around?" I just want to add on top of this is the kind of reverence and venom with the description "old, white-haired men can wait" as though there's the understanding that his is what the speaker has to "endure" while the other is gone.
The next stanza focuses on the mixture of nature and domestic images where the speaker, "I too have my place. / With a lovely wine, bidding life's affairs bon voyage." I'm not entirely too sure about this line -- the tone fits with the idea of letting go, but the tone is a bit contrary to the spring stanza, but this could be setting up the emotional distress which is curiously downplayed the next three stanzas.
The next three stanzas focus more of place, "Looking east to Shao," "I admire that stately Po-hua wineshop," "East of the river, before Abbot's Huang's grave" and, "At Madame Huang's house." Now these locations, especially Abbot Huang, could be the person the speaker is mourning. However, I don't get a sense of that here. The execution of the places feels more like a marker for places the speaker escapes to.
*Po-hua -- beautiful dancing girls (the speaker cannot bear to look at)
*Abbot Huang's grave -- a crush of peach blossoms opening ownerless (speaker comparing self with being with no one)
*Madame Huang's house -- the attention to thousands of blossoms where everything is fine (to set up a jarring realilzation)
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.
The speaker understands the beauty of the moment, but further knows about the loneliness that happens when "blossoms die" (or the people who represents the blossoms die or leave). And so the last lines, "open delicately, sparingly" I feel has a genuine loneliness/subtle sting to it.
In one way, the blossom that opens delicately and sparingly could be enjoyed for longer moments of time; however, the blossom that doesn't bloom full and bright wouldn't be admired so much amongst every other blossom. Although this interpretation isn't there in the poem, for me, there's a sense of what appreciation is, and how that knowledge is attained when something is gone.