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"A Very Handsome Gentleman"


The following poem is from the Shih Ching. It is the the 88th poem appearing in Mao's ordering of the Shih Ching, but is often numbered 20th in English versions of that anthology. It reminds one of Robert Herrick's "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time," or other carpe diem poems in the Western tradition. In its elegant simplicity, it captures the teenage angst a young girl might feel, regretting a choice made out of timidity, longing for the road not taken. I particularly find moving the way she frets over her clothes. Note in particular the subtle repetition of words in reverse order.

A very handsome gentleman

Waited for me in the lane;

I am sorry I did not go with him.

 

A very splendid gentleman

Waited for me in the hall;

I am sorry I did not keep company with him.

 

I am wearing my unlined coat, my coat all of brocade.

I am wearing my unlined skirt, my skirt all of brocade!

Oh uncles, young and old,

Let me go with him to his home!

 

I am wearing my unlined skirt, my skirt all of brocade.

And my unlined coat, my coat all of brocade.

Oh uncles, young and old,

Let me go with him to his home!

 

 

 

     

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