In 759 Tu Fu was dismissed from office. Wandering all the way to far away Szechuan in his forty-eighth year, Tu Fu began to realize what official life was like and where he, as an individual, stood in a withering society. In his twenty poems written during his sojourn at Chinchow, he seemed to feel a keen disappointment in current politics. Thus he wrote:

Again, his disappointment was expressed in another poem entitled “His Ping Ma,” or “Purging of the Woes of War.”

In this he referred to those who climb on the bandwagon of the national heroes; of how everybody had become princes and dukes; of how according to dynastic flatterers all tiny kingdoms outside of China were submitting tributes, thus reiterating his disappointment with the young emperor whom the poet estimated to be a mediocre ruler.

Thenceforth, he made up his mind that there was not much he could do and that he should not entertain any further hope of “elevating the emperor above Yao and Shun.” From that time on—especially after his arrival in Szechuan—he finally resolved to live the life of a poet for the rest of his life.

In the third period of his literary production, his life was a little more composed although as yet not entirely free from extreme poverty.

Nonetheless, he had a little more rest and a little more leisure compared with his constant flight in the previous period. The heart of the T’ang Empire was still exposed to a whole series of emergencies.

The An Lu-shan rebellion was prolonged by a new rebellion led by another insubordinate semi-Chinese general, Shih Ssŭ-ming; the Turfans, dissatisfied with their share of the war booty, pressed their invasion to the wall of the capital; and the central government was dropping daily in prestige and real power, making it possible for the different war lords stationed in the frontier regions to become so many petty kings.

China was destined to experience another period of political disintegration and division. Realizing what history had decreed for the future, Tu Fu confirmed his belief that what was open to him was nothing more than the life of a poor but dedicated poet. As before, he had no liking for reclusion and so he did not seek to leave the world, seeking only contentment and regularity in life as he found it. Hence, his poems written in this third period were ones descriptive of the simple life.

The echoes of war and devastation were still audible and political dependency was still attended with hardships but he was never deprived of his ability to elicit smiles and poetry from adverse circumstances. With the ripening of his age, his verse forms became absolutely mature.

His short poems of this age were the natural overflow of his personality recorded at random without adornment and without conscious artistry but all palpitating with poetic flavor. They were continuations of the tradition of T’ao Yüan-ming and vanguards of the poetry of the Sung Dynasty.

What he was experiencing during this stage was real rustic life and not the life of self-styled farm hermits of the earlier part of the T’ang Dynasty. As a result, his poetry was real poetry dedicate to the appreciation of nature.
(茅屋為秋風所破歌 杜甫)


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