Bai Juyi

(772–846 / Taiyuan, Shanxi)

Thinking Of The Past - Poem by Bai Juyi

In an idle hour I thought of former days;
And former friends seemed to be standing in the room.
And then I wondered 'Where are they now?'
Like fallen leaves they have tumbled to the Nether Springs.
Han Yu swallowed his sulphur pills,
Yet a single illness carried him straight to the grave.
Yüan Chen smelled autumn stone
But before he was old, his strength crumbled away.
Master Tu possessed the 'Secret of Health':
All day long he fasted from meat and spice.
The Lord Ts'ui, trusting a strong drug,
Through the whole winter wore his summer coat.
Yet some by illness and some by sudden death ...
All vanished ere their middle years were passed.

Only I, who have never dieted myself
Have thus protracted a tedious span of age,
I who in young days
Yielded lightly to every lust and greed;
Whose palate craved only for the richest meat
And knew nothing of bismuth or calomel.
When hunger came, I gulped steaming food;
When thirst came, I drank from the frozen stream.
With verse I served the spirits of my Five Guts;
With wine I watered the three Vital Spots.

Day by day joining the broken clod
I have lived till now almost sound and whole.
There is no gap in my two rows of teeth;
Limbs and body still serve me well.
Already I have opened the seventh book of years;
Yet I eat my fill and sleep quietly;
I drink, while I may, the wine that lies in my cup,
And all else commit to Heaven's care.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, August 9, 2012



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