Lamenting Autumn Rains

Blusterous winds, unending rains, autumn of chaos,

The four seas, eight directions one solid cloud:

Horses going, cows coming, who can make out for sure?

Muddy Jing river, clear Wei, how to tell them apart?

From grain tips, ears sprouting, millet heads turned to black;

No word of how farmers, farmers’ wives are faring.

In the city, exchange a bed of quilt, get a meagre peck of grain –

Just agree, don’t argue over which is worth more!

Du Fu, one of China’s greatest poets, wrote this in 754 CE when the weather had been even wetter in northern China, than it was here at the end of the Summer, although we are unlikely to suffer the food shortages and inflation they did because of ruined crops. The poem is about more than the weather, though, as it reflects the sense of a civilisation under attack from outside.

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