Friday, May 09, 2014


I Know Nothing Now of Gain or Loss

T'ao Yuan-ming (365-427) "Poem in the Form of a Coffin-Puller's Song, No. 1," tr. Burton Watson in The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), p. 140:
What has a life must have a death;
an early end doesn't mean the lifespan's been shortened.
Last evening I was the same as other people;
this morning I'm listed in the roster of the dead.
When soul and breath scatter, where do they go,
when the wasted form's consigned to hollow wood?
My little boy, wailing, searches for his father;
my close friends caress me and mourn.
I know nothing now of gain or loss;
how could I distinguish right from wrong?
A thousand autumns, ten thousand years after,
who'll know if I lived in glory or disgrace?
I only regret that while I was in the world
I never got to drink enough wine!

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