At a Grave
O Man-ch’ing, thy birth gave a hero, thy death a God! Like the vulgar herd thou wast born and didst die, returning to the domain of nothingness. But thy earthly form could not perish like theirs. There was that within which could not decay: thy bright memory will endure through all generations. For such is the lot of the wise and good: their names are inscribed imperishably, to shine like the stars for ever.
O Man-ch’ing, ‘tis long since we met. Yet methinks I see thee now, as then, lofty of mien, courage upon thy brow. Ah! When the grave closed over thee, it was not into foul earth, but into the pure essence of gold and gems that thy dear form was changed. Or haply thou art some towering pine—some rare, some wondrous plant. What boots it now? Here in thy loneliness the spreading brambles weave around thy head, while the chill wind blows across thy bed moist with the dew of heaven. The will-o’-the-wisp and the firefly flit by: naught heard but the shepherd and the woodman singing songs on the hillside; naught seen but the startled bird rising, the affrighted beast scampering from their presence, as they pass to and fro and pour forth their plaintive lays. Such is thy solitude now. A thousand, ten thousand years hence, the fox and the badger will burrow into thy tomb, and the weasel make its nest within. For this also has ever been the lot of the wise and good. Do not their graves, scattered on every side, bear ample witness of this?
Alas! Man-ch’ing, I know full well that all things are overtaken, sooner or later, by decay. But musing over days bygone, my heart grows sad; and standing thus near to thy departed spirit, my tears flow afresh, and I blush for the heartlessness of God. O Man-ch’ing, rest in peace!