Custom Search

Short-lived Flowers 1

Tao, Yuan-ming (365-427 CE)

Prologue

    The short-lived flowers remind me of my old age. Time flies. It is summer again. I began to study Confucianism at the age of fifteen, but I have achieved nothing in my old age.

Beautiful flowers grow in my garden.
They display their beauty in the morning
And wither in the evening.
Human life is like a traveler's journey.
One seems to become old in a moment.
As I serenely contemplate this,
I am consumed with sorrow.

Beautiful flowers grow in my garden.
They bloom at dawn
And die at sunset.
Whether they are deemed strong or fragile is at a person's discretion.
They have no control over their destiny.
We must follow the principles of nature.
We must perform good deeds to cultivate virtue.

I lack talent.
My best years end,
But I have made no progress in my studies.
I wish I could study diligently,
But I end up drinking wine most of the time.
When I think of this,
I feel guilty and regretful.

I recall Confucius' teaching:
If one is still unknown at the age of forty,
One will most likely achieve nothing during one's lifetime 2.
I should get my horse and carriage ready for my distant journey.
I must reach my destination even though it is a thousand miles away.

Notes

1 The following video provides a sample of short-lived flowers:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7lvzUs9LlY
    The theme of the above poem is that one should strive to fulfill one's dreams. The following videos match this theme. The title of the first is "Dance for Youth"; the title of the second is "My Youth".
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1Ej6z32Wh8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8NEM2JqHKI

2 In The Analects, Confucius said, "We should not underestimate the potential of the young generation. They may surpass our achievements. However, if one is still unknown at the age of forty, one will most likely achieve nothing during one's lifetime." See Section 23, Book 9 in The Analects, Oxford University Press, 2000.