Admonition on the Part of a White-haired Old Man
The peach and plum flowers east of the capital
Fly up and down and here and there. Where will they fall?
The maiden in the capital loves rosy hue;
She would sigh for the flowers falling out of view.
Her rosy color fades when flowers fall this year.
When flowers blow again, will she pretty appear?
I’ve seen cypress cut down as fuel with pine trees;
I’ve heard the mulberry fields turn into the seas.
We see no ancients now east of capital town,
But we still see today the wind blow flowers down.
The flowers of this year look like those of last year;
But next year the same people will not reappear.
I’d like to tell the rosy faces in their prime
Not to forget the old before their dying time.
Pitiable is the old man whose hair turns white,
But in his prime he was rosy-cheeked, fair and bright.
Noble sons and daughters under the leafy trees
Sing and dance before the flowers blown down by the breeze.
By lakeside stand ministers’ richly brocaded bowers;
Pictures of immortals hang in generals’ towers.
When you’re ill and cast down, with you none would abide.
Who would then make merry in spring days by your side?
How long can your finely arched eyebrows remain fair?
Your head will soon be covered with disheveled hair.
See where the noble sang and danced in merriment,
Now you can only hear at dusk the birds’ lament.
The poet admonishes young men and maidens not to waste their golden hours of youth.
The poem “Admonition on the Part of a White-haired Old Man” is a work by Liu Xiyi, a poet of the Tang Dynasty. Although this poem is a pseudo-ancient musical composition, it is exquisitely conceived and opens up a whole new mood. The poem uses many contrasting techniques, a large number of overlapping phrases, and a cycle of repetition, and then leads with four questions, singing three sighs, the helplessness and sorrow of Shaohua no longer in the repeated questioning and chanting is colored by layers and layers of strong penetrating power. The poem has a strong sentimental tone, but it is not decadent, the style is clear and gentle, and the artistry is high, so it has been passed down as a famous piece.