Six Quatrains Written in Jest
Yu Xin’s writing matured as he grew older;
His vigorous brush rising to the clouds and the four corners of the world.
You young scholars of today sneer at what’s left of his work;
No wonder the sages have always said we should respect our juniors.
Wang, Yang, Lu and Luo set the style of their day;
Now you jeer at them for writing such frivolities.
But when you are all dead and your names forgotten,
Theirs will flow on, down the ages like great rivers.
Perhaps you are right, that when they dipped their brushes in ink,
They fell short of the Han and Wei standard that emulated the Odes and Li Sao?
But they rode steeds like Dragon Stripe and Tiger’s Back;
Can you lot leap a city like it was a lump of clay?
The talents of today struggle to surpass these Five Dukes;
Which among you is the genius who will stand out from the rest?
Some just see kingfishers on an orchid branch;
And miss a great whale deep in the blue ocean.
I don’t just belittle you moderns because I love the old;
There are fundamental reasons why some writing is beautiful.
Though you wish to match the greatness of Qu Yuan and Song Yu,
I’m afraid you’re more like dust behind the chariots of Qi and Liang.
That you are no match for these earlier sages is beyond doubt;
If you don’t constantly imitate them, how will you learn what is good?
So, leave behind your empty elegance, approach the majesty of the Odes;
Constantly seek a master to improve your work, for a master you surely need.