Satire on Fair Ladies
The weather’s fine in the third moon on the third day,
By riverside so many beauties in array.
Each of the ladies has a fascinating face,
Their skin is delicate, their manner full of grace.
Embroidered with peacocks and unicorns in gold,
Their dress in rich silks shines so bright when spring is old.
What do they wear on the head?
Emerald pendant leaves hang down in silver thread.
What do you see from behind?
How nice-fitting are their waist bands with pearls combined.
Among them there’re the emperor’s favorite kin,
Ennobled Duchess of Guo comes with Duchess of Qin.
What do they eat?
The purple meat of camels hump cooked in green cauldron as a dish;
On crystal plate is served snow-white slices of raw fish.
See rhino chopsticks the satiated eaters stay,
And untouched morsels carved by belled knives on the tray.
When eunuchs’ horses come running, no dust is raised;
They bring still more rare dishes delicious to the taste.
Listen to soul-stirring music of flutes and drums!
On the main road an official retinue comes.
A rider ambles on saddled horse, the last of all,
He alights, treads on satin carpet, enters the hall.
The willow down-like snow falls on the duckweed white;
The blue bird picking red handkerchief goes in flight.
The prime minister’s powerful without a peer.
His angry touch would bum your hand. Do not come near!
This is a satire against the emperor’s favorite Lady Yang and her sisters and their brother who became the Prime Minister. The poet describes their beauty, their dress, their food. He hints at the incest by the frivolous willow-down and the blue bird which carries secret amorous message for them.
This poem was written around 753 by Du Fu, a great poet of the Tang Dynasty. By describing the spring excursions of the Yang siblings in Qujiang River, the poem exposes the scandalous attitude of the rulers who were despicable and corrupt, and reflects the social reality on the eve of the An-Shi Rebellion from one perspective. The poem is divided into three sections: first, a general description of the beauty of the ladies’ bodies and their costumes, leading to the delicate beauty of the Yang sisters; second, the luxury of the banquet and the favors they received; and finally, the arrogance of Yang Guozhong. The whole poem is a grand scene, bright and rich, with delicate and vivid tone, and the irony is not exposed, the whole poem is just about the life of the “ladies”, but it achieves, as the previous writer said, “there is no sarcasm, the description of the words sarcasm; there is no lamentation, the point of the lamentation”. The artistic effect.