Shih-yin’s explication over the Daoist’s song, All Good Things Must End
(excerpt from CAO Xueqin, A Dream of Red Mansions, trans. Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang, chapter 1)
Mean huts and empty halls
Where emblems of nobility once hung;
Dead weeds and withered trees,
Where men have once danced and sung.
Carved beams are swathed in cobwebs
But briar-choked casements screened again with gauze;
While yet the rouge is fresh, the powder fragrant,
The hair at the temples turns hoary – for what cause?
Yesterday, yellow clay received white bones;
Today, red lanterns light the love-birds’ nest;
While men with gold and silver by the chest
Turn beggars, scorned by all and dispossessed.
A life cut short one moment makes one sigh,
Who would have known it’s her turn next to die?
No matter with what pains he schools his sons,
Who knows if they will turn to brigandry?
A pampered girl brought up in luxury
May slip into a quarter of ill fame;
Resentment at a low official rank
May lead to fetters and a felon’s shame.
In ragged coat one shivered yesterday,
Today a purple robe he frowns upon;
All’s strife and tumult on the stage,
As one man ends his song the next comes on.
To take strange parts as home
Is folly past compare;
And all our labour in the end
Is making clothes for someone else to wear.