At the End of Spring

A poem by Po Chū-i

to Yüan Chēn (A.D. 810)

  • The flower of the pear-tree gathers and turns to fruit;
  • The swallows’ eggs have hatched into young birds.
  • When the Seasons’ changes thus confront the mind
  • What comfort can the Doctrine of Tao give?
  • It will teach me to watch the days and months fly
  • Without grieving that Youth slips away;
  • If the Fleeting World is but a long dream,
  • It does not matter whether one is young or old.
  • But ever since the day that my friend left my side
  • And has lived an exile in the City of Chiang-ling,
  • There is one wish I cannot quite destroy:
  • That from time to time we may chance to meet again.

— translated by Arthur Waley

Po Chū-i (772–846) lived during the T’ang Dynasty, a period that produced the greatest flowering of Chinese poetry. His work was extremely popular during his lifetime and has remained popular ever since. Po’s style is marked by great simplicity and accessibility and a world view that is compassionate and socially conscious, his poems frequently noting the oppression of the poor, the abuse of political power, and the arrogance of the wealthy. He was an official in several Chinese provinces and occupied several important government positions. Arthur Waley, the translator (1889–1963), was a well-known British scholar of Asian art and translator of Chinese and Japanese literature. His biography of Po, The Life and Times of Po Chū-i, was published in 1949. “At the End of Spring” appeared in Waley’s second book, More Translations for the Chinese, published by Knopf in 1919.

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