Lamenting Autumn Rains

Du Fu (712 – 770) was a Tang Dynasty poet. Here he is writing here about the very wet autumn of 754 in what is now the Chinese megacity of Xi’an.

Lamenting Autumn Rains

Blustrous 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!

We have had weather like this in England in the past. The summer of 1314 was wet and cool and the harvest poor. In May 1315, it began to rain and continued for 15 months with widespread crop failures and food prices doubling between by midsummer. It wasn’t till 1325 that food supply returned to normal. Then the Black Death came and wiped out 40% of England’s people. The young were especially vulnerable, just as they are to today’s pandemics.

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