To My Deceased Wife
“What if one of us should die?” we said for fun one day;
But now it has come true and passed before my eyes.
I can’t bear to see your clothes and give them away;
I seal your embroidery lest it should draw my sighs.
Remembering your kindness, I’m kind to our maids;
Dreaming of your bounty, I give bounties as before.
I know there is no mortal but returns to the shades,
But a poor couple like us have more to deplore.
Sitting idle, I grieve for myself as for you;
How many days are left for my declining years?
Another childless man fared better than I do;
Another widower lavished vain verse and tears.
Could I await a better fate than our same tomb?
Could you be born again and again be my wife?
With eyes unclosed all night long I’ll lie in the gloom
To repay you for your unknit brows in your life.
The poet has written three poems for his deceased wife and two of them are selected here.
Three Poems for Grieving is a group of poems by Yuan Zhen, a poet of the Tang Dynasty. These three poems focus on mourning for the author’s late wife, Wei Cong. The first poem recalls the hardships of the past and the thoughtful care of his wife, expressing the regret of being poor together but not rich together; the second poem follows the previous one, describing the scene after his wife’s death and expressing his deep sorrow by giving old clothes and pitying his servant; the third poem laments the brevity of life because of his wife’s early death, and expresses the endless hatred once she dies, highlighting the sorrow and deepening the theme. The whole poem is straightforward, simple and natural, with simple and common language and moving descriptions, expressing the true feelings of lingering sorrow, which is one of the best ancient poems of mourning for the dead.