De senectute

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

17 February 2013

 

DE SENECTUTE

 

The first sign of farewell to life

Is the turning inside out of all one’s tastes.

The great drinker stops caring for wine,

The traveller wants only to be left where he is.

My life-long passion was my love of company,

And the more my visitors talked, the better I liked them.

But ever since my illness came upon me

At the first word I stop up my ears.

And worse still, when my wife or children come

I cannot bring myself even to wave a hand.

I know that this is a very bad sign;

My old body has almost done its task.

But strangely enough I go through my old books

With as great a delight as I did in former days.

And ill though I am I still write poems,

Chanting them aloud till the night is far spent.

Shall it be “push the door” or “knock at the door” ?

I weigh each word, each line from beginning to end.

I see to it that every phrase is alive;

I do not accept a single dead word.

Perhaps the fact that this habit has not left me

Shows that I still have a little longer to live.

Yuan Mei (1716-1797), Chinese poet, hedonist and garden lover. The translation cited can be found on page 198 of the biography, “Yuan Mei”, written by the celebrated English populariser  and translator of Chinese literature,  Arthur Waley (1889-1966), an outlier of the Bloomsbury Group. Of Yuan Mei himself, a literary connoisseur with a roving eye, it is said that “he was that rare phenomenon, a professed hedonist who actually succeeded in being happy”.

 

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 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

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