When they brew up clouds in White Emperor city, the rain drenches everyone below
Up in the high river, they lob thunderbolts back and forth; it blocks out the sun for the poor old trees and vines
The returned horses are wilder than battle chargers now, because only a hundred out of every thousand families are still here
Widows are weeping everywhere, bitter crying on the autumn plain, from village after village…
The coolness comes from the weather metaphor. It just looks very obviously like a complaint about the gods – they have their petty disputes up on Olympus, and we Greeks end up at war for ten years. Up in Baidi the clouds come out, and down in the plain we get pissed on. Up in the high gorges they play with thunderbolts, and the sky is blacked out for the rest of us.
And yet, I’m reading two exegeses of the poem which keep talking about the fucking weather. It’s not impossible, I guess. There is a lot of weather talk in Du Fu. But in this one he seems so clearly to succeed in transforming the weather talk into something else, something with more poetic power.
And it’s not like other critics don’t see it at all. The Chinese exegesis I’m reading at www.diyifanwen.com/sicijianshang/tangdai/d
These two couplets establish the poems key images as cloud and rain, which here serve as a metaphor for the military turmoil of the time. In fact, these lines set the scene for the following description of a country wracked by death and violence.
So it’s clear that everyone can see the rain as violence metaphor; the question is am I reading too much into the upstairs/downstairs metaphor? I dunno, maybe, but just look at that first couplet:
Could it be any plainer? The clouds come out in Baidi, the rain falls on the plain. Cause and effect. Unstated, but clear enough, I think, is that the rain doesn’t fall on Baidi.
The weird thing again is that the commentators don’t seem to be noticing anything different about this poem and this image. Why does the commentator at diyifanwen think that the parallelism in the second couplet is more interesting than the vital, majestic, deeply critical and subversive image that Du Fu has created here of a city up in the heavens, pouring rain and hell down on the people below? Not to mention that great horse image.