Poems of Yu Xuanji
Selling Damaged Peonies
Against the wind, I heave a sigh for all the fallen blossoms.
Thoughts of virtue are disappearing again this spring.
And because it comes at such a cost, no one asks why.
But due to all this fragrance, butterflies are scarce.
They say these red blossoms only bloom within the palace walls.
So how can they stand for jade leaves to dye the dusty roads?
They even come to cut down trees within the garden woods.
My prince, he buys a state of hate and it will show no mercy.
This poem reminds me so much of Bai Juyi's Buying Flowers that Yu may have been inspired by his poem. It could have been written at any time during Yu's adult years. But the later in her life, the more likely, as Emperor Yizong showed less virtue and more fragrant extravagance with each passing spring. And every spring, more jade leaves marched to their deaths in wars beyond the dusty roads.
This poem, with its wang2sun1 (王孙) or "my prince," is so openly critical of such a bad emperor that there is the possibility that, if written late in her short life, this is Yu Xuanji's cause of death. Anyone so known to the court that they are writing Chief Ministers is likely to get caught out for writing a poem like this. And the poet Li Ye was executed by a much better emperor for just this kind of poem, which probably did not specify its target so blatantly.