Monday, June 18, 2012


Indulgence in Excesses

A poem by Yuan Mei (1716–1797), tr. Arthur Waley:
When one is old, one treasures every minute;
A single day is precious as a year.
And how seldom, even in a whole year,
Does a true rapture of the senses come one's way!
Man is born to get pleasure where he can;
How he sets about it depends on how he is made.
All that matters is to find out in good time,
Each for himself, which things he really enjoys.
I was born with many strong cravings;
Now that I am old they are gradually slipping away.
There are only left two or three things
That still delight me as they did in former days—
To spread out a book beside a bamboo stream,
To run my fingers along an ancient jade,
To climb a hill with a stout stick in my hand,
To drink wine in the presence of lovely flowers,
Talk of books—why they please or fail to please—
Or of ghosts and marvels, no matter how far-fetched.
These are excesses in which, should he feel inclined,
A man of seventy-odd may well indulge.

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