Mei Yaochen (1002-1060) lived in the Song dynasty, and wrote simple, moving poems of everyday life and of mourning for his family. Mei Yaochen is best known for writing of ordinary life, and using correspondingly ordinary, "unliterary", language. He also wrote several poems mourning the deaths of his wife and children.
A Rural Home Mourning Loss Sacrifice to the Cat that Scared all the Rats Sad Remembrance Staying Overnight with Xie Shihou in the Xu Family Library and Being Bothered By Hearing Rats Writing of My Sorrow
A Rural Home
The cock crows three times; the sky is almost light. Someone's lined up bowls of rice, along with flasks of tea. Anxiously, the peasants rush to start the ploughing early, I pull aside the willow shutter and gaze at the morning stars.
When we two first became husband and wife Was seventeen years ago today. We couldn't look at each other enough, What loss could compare to this? Already, my temples are mostly white, I'd rather my body had finished its time. In the end, we'll share a tomb; Still not dead, I weep and weep.
Sacrifice to the Cat that Scared all the Rats
When I had my Five White cat, The rats did not invade my books. This morning Five White died, I sacrifice with rice and fish. I see you off in the middle of the river, I chant for you: I won't neglect you. Once when you'd bitten a rat, You took it crying round the yard. You wanted to scare all the rats, So as to make my cottage clean. Since we came on board this boat, On the boat we've shared a room. Although the grain is dry and scarce, I eat not fearing piss or theft. That's because of your hard work, Harder working than chickens or pigs. People stress their mighty steeds, Saying nothing's like a horse or ass. Enough- I'm not going to argue, But cry for you a little.
After you came back to my home, You never complained that we were poor. Up till midnight every night, We had our breakfast after noon. Nine or ten days eating pickles, Then one day we’d have dried meat. East and west for eighteen years, Together we shared both bitter and sweet. Expecting a hundred years of love, How could I know you’d go one evening? I still remember that last hour, You held me, but you could not speak. Although this body yet survives, Finally we’ll be dust together.
Staying Overnight with Xie Shihou in the Xu Family Library and Being Bothered By Hearing Rats
The lamp is blue, the men are all asleep, Hungry rats start to emerge from a hole. The noise of tumbling cups and plates is loud, I’m startled by the noise: my dream is ended. I worry they’ll knock the inkstone from the table, I’m frightened that they’ll gnaw the books on the shelf. My silly boy tries to miaow like a cat: That’s a really daft idea.
Writing of My Sorrow
Heaven's already taken my wife, Now it's also taken my son. My two eyes are still not dry, My heart desires only death. Rain falls and soaks into the earth, A pearl sinks into the ocean's depths. Dive in the sea and you can seek the pearl, Dig in the earth and you can see the water. Only people return to the source below. For all of time. This we know. I hold my chest; to whom now can I turn? Emaciated, a ghost in the mirror.
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