I drive my chariot toward the Eastern Gate;
From afar I see the graveyard north of the wall.
The white aspens, how they murmur, murmur;
Pines and cypresses flank the broad paths.
Beneath lie men who died long ago --
Black, black is the long night that holds them.
Deep down beneath the Yellow Springs
Thousands of years they lie without waking.
Light and darkness alternate in infinite pattern,
And years vanish like morning dew.
Man's life is a brief visit,
Without the endurance of stone and bronze.
Mourners turn are mourned,
Saint and sage -- all alike are trapped.
Many have been the dupes of strange drugs,
Seeking immortality in food and drink.
Better far to enjoy good wine,
And clothe our bodies in satin and silk.
The dead are gone and with them we cannot converse.
The living, though, are here, and ought to have our love.
Leaving the city gate I look ahead
And see before me only mountains and tombs.
The old graves are forgotten and plowed up,
The pines and cypresses are cut for timber.
I want to go home, to ride to my village gate.
I want to go back, but there is no road.
From Nineteen Poems, a Chinese collection of the Han Dynasty, translated by Arthur Whaley.