Nineteen Old Poems
, number 13, tr. Zong-qi Cai:
I ride my carriage to the Upper East Gate,
Gazing at the graves north of the wall.
White poplars, how bleak they are in the wind!
Pine and cypress flank the broad paths.
Underneath them, the dead from long ago,
Dark, dark is their long night.
Lost in sleep beneath the Yellow Springs,
Come a thousand years, they will not awaken.
Seasons of growth and decay march on and on,
The years allotted to man are like morning dew.
Man's life is as transient as a sojourn,
His frame is not as firm as metal or stone.
Ten thousand years have gone by,
No sages or worthies can cross the flow of time.
Some take drugs and hope to become immortals,
Many of them only end their life with poison.
Far better to drink fine wine
And wear clothes made of choice white silk.
The same, tr. Burton Watson:
I drive my carriage from the Upper East Gate,
scanning the graves far north of the wall;
silver poplars, how they whisper and sigh;
pine and cypress flank the broad lane.
Beneath them, the ancient dead
black black there in their long night,
sunk in sleep beneath the Yellow Springs;
a thousand years pass but they never wake.
Times of heat and cold in unending succession,
but the years Heaven gives us are like morning dew.
Man's life is brief as a sojourn;
his years lack the firmness of metal or stone.
Ten thousand ages come and go
but sages and wise men discover no cure.
Some seek long life in fasts and potions;
many end by poisoning themselves.
Far better to drink fine wine,
to clothe ourselves in soft white silk!