A Lady Prepares
(From the Chinese of Wen T’ing-yun, c.812-870AD)
On the filigree hills of her bedscreen, the gold thread plays and fades,
as drifts of scented tresses enclothe her snow-fresh face.
Now languidly she rises, to line her comely brows,
and dallies with her toiletries, and sedulously combs.
Her flower form is captured in mirrors at each side;
her features likewise blossom, and in reflection shine.
And patterned on her garment of newly-broidered silk
are pairs of golden partridges aligning wing on wing.
The Poor Seamstress
(From the Chinese of Ch’in Tao-yu, 600 x 900AD)
In her poor thatched place she’s not known what it is
to wear beautiful scented silk.
She longs to put trust in a match of some kind,
to rescue herself from her sad state in life;
but who would enamour her movement and manner,
who, of some standing, make agreement with her?
Who would be willing to concede to life’s hardships –
acknowledge her need to be combed and adorned?
She could dare use her fingers, boast skill with the needle,
but could not contest those who paint eyebrows all day.
So, embittered, resentful, year after year,
she stitches the threads down, embroiders in gold
to produce bridal dresses that others will own.
Too Much Alone
(From the Chinese: Anonymous,1st/2nd centuries AD)
Deep green is the grass by the riverside.
Dense are the garden willows.
Fair, oh fair is the girl upstairs –
vivacious. She stands at the window.
And once she was a singing girl:
to a wastrel now she’s wed.
He leaves her so long and seldom returns,
and she’s too much alone in her bed…
From ‘Translations of Classical Chinese Poetry’