Poems of Yu Xuanji
At the Eastern Examination Hall in the Capital of Zezhou, I Watch a Messenger's Announcement
Idly at home, I have written verse, wasting many years.
The king's palace at the mountains' feet is my second home.
I've chanted poems, east and west, on a thousand broken peaks.
I've ridden this horse, north and south, singlemindedly.
Once upon a rainy night, I went to a happy feast.
Afterwards, to kill some time, alone I climbed a tower.
Suddenly, a knock on a gate, below a messenger arrived.
Somber, he stood in a narrow way, before a secluded home.
It was as if the red silk strings of their lute had fallen silent,
As if two swallows were split from their nest in fall's white frost.
Don't neglect to visit the poor from time to time.
Every spring they exert themselves, singing along the river.
I'm going to go out on a limb with this one. This was written in the middle of September (白露) just after Yu Xuanji was importuned by Li Jinren at his graduation ceremony. Before gratefully snuffing her lamp that night, she broke away from her unwanted suitor and walked up into a tower. Below, on the backside of the testing hall, in a narrow alley, a messenger arrived at a poor house and gave the family some very bad news. This set her to thinking about the poor, put her in a worse mood, and when she got home she wrote the more or less mean response to Li Jinren's request to see her again. I think that if Yu Xuanji had lived to old age, she would have been another Bai Juyi, full of heart and openness. And we would have five hundred of a several thousand poems instead of forty-eight of several hundred.