Poems of Li Ye
By Your Gracious Command, a Parting Poem to be Engraved on the Tomb of Your Wife
With much illness we are not able to avoid old age
And unexpectedly we arrive in Heaven without our fame.
We are ashamed to doff our hats and show grey hair
And more ashamed to see our old face in the mirror.
Our busy mind in a palace follows after esteem.
But from Southern Hill, old hills stretch as far as you can see.
The laurel groves will not accept a less than cultured guest.
When seagulls leave this shore, don't expect to see them again.
We know that around 772 Li Ye spent a month in the palace as Emperor Daizong's guest. It looks like this is her parting poem written at his request. The emperor asked her for a poem to inscribe on his wife's tomb and this is what she wrote. Think about that as you read the poem. There is not much religious consolation here. I like that about Daoism.
Southern Hill was a monastery in Tang times. I am too ignorant to know the significance of laurel groves. Or cassia groves. Unless through the tale of the jade rabbit on the moon, it has to do with immortality. The final line is more literally, "When seagulls leave this shore, you're deceiving yourself if you think they will meet again." Which is an example of how compressed Chinese can be. Literally, it is "sand gulls leave shore deceive each-other meet."