Burial of Flowers .
Flowers fade and fall and fly about up in the sky,
But who pities the loss of your fragrance when you die?
Like gossamer you float and land on pavilions,
With your fallen petals clung soft to fine curtains.
In my boudoir I sigh over the close of spring,
But there’s no way to express my sorrowful feeling.
Spade in hand, I go out from under my fine curtain,
To and fro on fallen petals, how can I bear treading?
Willow twigs and elm buds send sweet scents as they may,
Who cares when peach and plum petals are in decay?
Next year peach and plum trees will be in bloom again,
But who will be the master of my boudoir then?
In March lunar swallows have got their nests ready,
They on the beam seem to be those without mercy.
Next year in their flight, fresh flowers they may peck, though,
All that they and I have will be lost, they never know.
There are three hundred and sixty days in one year,
With you the elements of nature are severe.
Time is not long for you to be bright and charming,
Your trace and track are hard to find in your drifting.
You are easy to see when open but hard when fallen,
Before the stairs I am worried where to find your remains.
Against the spade I lean and in secret weep sudden,
Splashed on your bare branches are my tears like bloodstains.
The cuckoo ceases its warbling at twilight,
With my spade I return and shut the doors tight.
I go to bed with a lone oil lamp still shining,
My quilt is not warm when a cold rain is falling.
I feel at heart it is a matter quite nerve-racking,
For I like spring or I feel sad over its leaving.
Spring I love and my sorrow repair at a fast pace,
They come silent and go without leaving a trace.
Last night beyond pavilions sad song seemed rising,
Was it the souls of flowers or birds that were singing?
It is always hard to ask their souls to stay behind,
That birds are silent and flowers feel ashamed, I find.
I wish to have two wings under my arms to fly,
After you unto the farthest end of the sky.
At the farthest end of the sky,
Where can I find the grave of your fragrance lie?
Better in silk to shroud your petals fair,
With a handful of clean earth as your attire.
For pure you have come and pure you repair,
Lest you fall into some foul ditch or mire.
I hold a burial when you die today,
But there’s no telling when I pass away.
Others laugh at me that have buried thee,
Who will be the one that shall bury me?
At the farthest end of the sky,
Where can I find the grave of my fragrance lie?
The end of spring makes flowers fall one by one,
It’s also the time when beauty meets its doom.
Once beauty is carried to its very tomb,
Both beauty and flowers perish known to none.
The poet and the background note: Cao Xueqin (? ~1764) was one of the most famous novelists and poets in the history of Chinese literature. Born in an influential Manchurian bureaucratic family, he had high cultural accomplishments and outstanding competence for art. During the reign of the Qing Emperor Yongzheng, his father was involved in a political struggle within the ruling class, defeated, so his family suffered a heavy blow both politically and financially. Thereafter, his family circumstances deteriorated. However, adversity brought talent in return. It was when he was plunged in such an embarrassing circumstance that he had the chance to contact himself with the underprivileged of the then society, thus giving him specific, intense experience, and enabling himself to see better of life. He spent as was recorded, at least ten years busying himself with the production of the novel The Dream of the Red Chamber, in which, through a detailed description of the rise and fall of an influential noble family of that time, he created a great number of typical characters, conducted in-depth analyses and criticisms of the then evil society and, at the same time, sang ebullient praises of both the male and female youths who were considered heretical in pursuit of love. The Dream of the Red Chamber is seen as a great realistic masterpiece among the Chinese classic novels. But the novel reveals a kind of pessimism and sentimentalism past cure. With the tone of Lin Daiyu, one of the heroines in The Dream of the Red Chamber, the author Cao Xueqin blended human feelings with nature in this novel as if in confirmation of man’s helplessness in the presence of the change of nature and the flight of time. As is known to all that have read it, Lin is a sentimentalist who, taking as part of her life the enjoyment of flowers and moonlight, tends
To shed tears at the sight of flowers falling,
And feel sad when finding the moon waning.
Flowers bloom and then flowers die,
There’s no need for her to give a sigh.
It is the very law of nature,
She ought not to take pains to bother.
Relentless away time flies,
Over the natural loss she cries.
She was born frail and tender,
Or because she’s a teenager.
The author intended his novel to be a tragedy, around the theme of which he spread all the plots in it. Here, in this poem he had his heroine Lin utter his aspirations to achieve the artistic effect.