Jiu Bian (Nine Changes): VI by Song Yu

Dew falls and the bitter frost follows to afflict me,
And my heart is distraught and will not be comforted.
Sleet and snow, thickly commingling, harder and harder come down,
And I know that the time is near when I must meet my end.
I wish that by some lucky chance I might be forgiven;
But I shall soon die, along with the moorland grasses.
I wish I could set off unbidden and fly straight to him,
But the road to him is blocked and impassable.
I wish I could follow the others’ route and ride the easy way,
But that, too, is no good: I do not known how to do it.
And so I stop midway in perplexity,
Grieving and hesitant; unable to turn back.
And though dull and stupid by nature and poor in talents,
I restrain myself and learn to mourn in verses.
Orchid and iris are mixed with worthless mugwort:
Truly I am not skilled to imitate their fashion.

From: Hawkes, David (translator and editor), The Songs of the South. An Anthology of Poems by Qu Yuan and Other Poets, 2011, Penguin: London, pp. [unnumbered].

Date: 3rd century BCE (original); 1985 (translation)

By: Song Yu (c319-298 BCE)

Translated by: David Hawkes (1923-2009)


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