With summer on the horizon, the plums still retain the tartness to their liking, and the shadow of the plantain near the window sparkles on the silk curtain. The longer the days, the sweeter the siesta becomes with the cotton of the willows dispersed by the breeze. Nature tells us that summer is coming, and the poet eases the boredom by watching the children rush to grab the cotton. As the plantain and the silk curtain share their green hue, the poet takes full advantage of the atmosphere of early summer feeling connected to the excited children grabbing the cotton balls.
The poet, just in his forties at the time, could not enjoy the luxury of relaxing like in the poem. He stayed in his hometown to mourn the death of his father for three years. The royal court was plunged into chaos, divided between doves and hawks due to conflicts with the Jin dynasty founded by the Manchu Jurchens. As a hawk, he was busy visiting the patriots and berating incompetent and corrupt rulers. In that sense, his time off and downtime may seem a bit unfamiliar, but it may have been a precious time for him.
This poem is the first of a series of two poems. The poet again keeps his eyes on the children in the second poem. He sings that “When he sprinkled clear spring water in his hands on the plantain for fun, the children thought that raindrops were falling.” Maybe he was trying to forget the grim reality and feel the catharsis for a moment through the prism of childlike innocence. As he watched the children undistracted and shared the innocence with them, his suffering could have gently melted into the long summer days.