Poems of Bai Juyi
For My Wife
My gray hair makes me sigh.
My lovely wife sighs along with me.
She mends winter clothes beneath the lamp.
My little girl plays on the bed.
Our bed curtains are getting a little ratty.
And our bedding won't keep out the autumn cold.
In poverty, this is your reward,
Your prize for marrying a poor scholar.
As far as I can tell, this was written during Bai Juyi's Sichuan exile. His wife is with him, as is his second daughter, born after the death of the first. His servants are here. I'm pretty sure he has a singing girl in the house, too. These were of higher status than servants and could leave if they wished. He has a minor post in Jiangzhou. But he is not suffering. And he is certainly not in poverty. These "For My Wife" poems were a formal-ish gift from literary gentlemen to their wives on various occasions. Maybe it's their anniversary. Contrary to other scholarly opinions, I think Bai and his wife are pretty happy together. He never goes farther from her than some little cottage up in the hills where he drinks with friends or monks. And I think this poem would have made his wife laugh.