Poems of Meng Jiao
For Yao Fu's parting
Beautiful woman gives up her lutes.
How will life be without your clever music?
I heard you sing in the city of Ying.
I begin to feel how much your talent will be missed.
As dandelion seeds never return to the stalk
And rushing rivers split into many currents,
The weary traveler hates to leave the gates.
But the tired horse yearns to lose the saddle.
How can I write what I feel right now?
Let me give you this vermilion in my hand.
Yao Fu is probably a prefessional singer who is retiring. She could be quite old. There's the story of the young man who paid a fist of gold to see the face of a famous veiled singer. The woman turned out to be, physically, old and ugly. Yet she was the highest paid singer in Chang'an.
The only puzzle here is 丹 in the last line. This can be a pill or pellet, cinnabar for alchemy and immortality, vermilion for cosmetics and dying cloth. It is a vivid character and so must have had its symbolism which I am unable to grasp in this context.