Poems of Yu Xuanji
For Kingdom's Fragrance
This morning I was drunk and singing.
I am missing you again this spring.
I'm sending this off by messenger in the rain.
Out my window, everyone looks heartbroken.
Mountains look like pearl-beaded curtains in the rain.
Anxiety follows hard on my new inner progress.
Others come to sit at the pure, clear banquet.
How many times must I fall from roof-ridge to dust?
This is a poem written in distraction. She seems innerly struggling with something. A regulated poem would have, usually, two lines of separate phrases, two single phrase couplets, and two more one-liners. Certain relations would apply throughout. But we have six wandering, spontaneously suggested onesies and then a final couplet phrase, which I busted into two for clearer English. She can do her art. But she's distracted here. It comes out art anyway.
A Daoist poem. Kingdom's Fragrance is probably her master's or original abbess' courtesy name and the kingdom part indicates Daoism, as it was favored by the government. Drinking isn't an indication of anything beyond her seeming to wish she hadn't been doing it again. There was a 20th C. Zen master in Japan who was highly honored and rarely found sober. As for when this was written, it was obviously after she left her master. So one would think it could be no earlier than 866. Possibly 868.
We have seen that Yu Xuanji is intelligent and spiritually-minded. She has a sense of humor and knows what fear is. She can write a subtle and gentle letter of leavetaking that puts almost all similar letters to shame. Here we find that, even in distraction, she is empathetic, grateful, aesthetically aware, and morally introspective. As I said, those who create enduring art are extraordinary. At no older than twenty-four, she is expressing herself here in an extraordinary way.