Poems of Yu Xuanji
Every morning a farewell, crying into my hair.
Admiring how spring's last winds shake willows into smoke.
I'm willing for West Mountain to be bare of all its trees,
If it will teach men to do their work far, far from tears.
This is the last poem we have of Yu Xuanji. It is also one of the last she wrote. "Every morning" is only a "farewell" if you know you will be leaving and not coming back. I think the image of West Mountain's bareness is also an emptiness of death.
We only have these forty eight poems because, in the Song dynasty, men plundered her self-published collection, "Fragments of a Northern Dreamland." It probably contained hundreds of poems. But it is lost. The plunderers plundered several poets' works, wrote exagerrated and slanderous introductions for each poet, and then plonked in those poems which could be loosely construed as having anything to do with the false picture of their lies.
In Yu Xuanji's case, the false picture was that she was a violent and immoral woman. The poems preserved are those which have bigraphs of double entendre. "Spring wind" is "sex." Other ones include euphemisms of pleasure, prostitution, and similar. It is my opinion that Yu Xuanji was oblivious to all these double meanings. She was raised in a cultured and highly-placed household. By sixteen, she was educated to the heights of being able to write answer-poems in regulated verse. Her vocabulary is marvelous. She marries at sixteen, enters a monastery at nineteen, becomes a famous poet in the capital in her twenties, and dies at twenty-eight, at the latest.
She doesn't have to be innocently ignorant. She probably lost some of it eventually, anyway. But I imagine her innocence was always enough to elicit a smile from Wen Tingyun and her friend the prince and anyone else she wrote poems to. Yu Xuanji, by the evidence of her own work, was a very intelligent, pious, worldly, big-hearted idealist.