More Chinese poems
(First century B.C.)
To be an orphan,
To be fated to be an orphan,
How bitter is this lot!
When my father and mother were alive
I used to ride in a carriage
With four fine horses.
But when they both died,
My brother and sister-in-law
Sent me out to be a merchant.
In the south I traveled to the "Nine Rivers"
And in the east as far as Chi'i and Lu.
At the end of the year when I came home
I dared not tell them what I had suffered-
Of the lice and vermin in my head,
Of the dust in my face and eyes.
My brother told me to get ready the dinner,
My sister-in-law told me to see after the horses.
I was always going up into the hall
And running down again to the parlour.
My tears fell like rain.
In the morning they sent me to draw water,
I didn't get back till night-fall.
My hands were all sore
And I had no shoes.
I walked the cold earth
Treading on thorns and brambles.
As I stopped to pull out the thorns,
How bitter my heart was!
My tears fell and fell
And I went on sobbing and sobbing.
In winter I have no great-coat;
Nor in summer, thin clothes.
It is no pleasure to be alive.
I had rather quickly leave the earth
And go beneath the Yellow Springs.(1)
The April winds blow
And the grass is growing green.
In the third month-silkworms and mulberries,
In the sixth month-the melon-harvest.
I went out with the melon-cart
And just as I was coming home
The melon-cart turned over.
The people who came to help me were few,
But the people who ate the melons were many,
All they left me was stalks-
To take home as fast as I could.
My brother and sister-in-law were harsh,
They asked me all sorts of awful questions.
Why does everyone in the village hate me?
I want to write a letter and send it
To my mother and father under the earth,
And tell them I can't go on any longer
Living with my brother and sister-in-law.
In the country of Yüeh when a man made friends with another they set up an altar of earth, and sacrificed upon it a dog and a cock, reciting this oath as they did so:
Oaths of Friendship
If you were riding in a coach
And I were wearing a "Li", (1)
And one day we met in the road,
You would get down and bow.
If you were carrying a "T?ng",(2)
And I were riding on a horse,
And one day we met in the road
I would get down for you.
I want to be your friend
For ever and ever without break or decay.
When the hills are all flat
When the rivers are all dry,
When it lightens and thunders in winter,
When it rains and snows in summer
When Heaven and Earth mingle-
Not until then will I part from you.
(1) A peasant's coat made of straw.
(2) An umbrella under which a cheap-jack sells his wares.