Poems of Yu Xuanji
Thoughts at End of Spring for a Friend
Oriole's song startles me from unfinished dream.
I quickly make up my face to hide the tears.
Bamboo shadows in a sliver-moon's first light.
Calm river deep in evening fog.
Wet beak of a mud-digging swallow.
Fragrance that compels the pollenating bees.
Sympathising alone with my endless thoughts,
I end this poem on the small branches of this pine.
She seems alone with her thoughts, alone in her life, out of the monastery, on her own. So this poem comes sometime after 868. And probably later than that as she writes this to more than one friend, I think. Yu Xuanji, as we have seen, writes regulated verse which requires knowledge and literary skill. Often she writes plainly and directly. But her vocabulary is quite large, in my experience. We have seen her make classical references. And, from titles of poems yet translated, I know she writes answer-poems which require more skill than poetry itself, as the answering poem must keep the challenger's rhyme scheme and maintain its theme and mood.
I point these things out as, combined with our knowledge that she communicates with high officials in her Daoist capacity, they suggest that she becomes well-known among the literati to some extent. These are appreciators of poetry she is writing to with this poem, if not to a circle of actual poets. These hints prepare us for her having known and corresponded with the poet Wen Tingyun.
Finally, knowing that she sat on the fence around a deep, old well, it may be that the final line is literally true and in keeping with her sense of humor.