Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
The Orphan
By Arthur Waley, trans.
 
From “Chinese Poems”

Anonymous—First Century B. C.

TO be an orphan,
To be fated to be an orphan,
How bitter is this lot!
When my father and mother were alive
I used to ride in a fine carriage        5
Driving four horses;
But when my father and mother died,
My brother and his wife made of me a merchant.
In the South I travelled to the Nine Rivers
And in the East as far as Ch’i and Lu.        10
At the end of the year when I came home
I dared not tell them what I had suffered—
Of the lice and vermin in my head,
Of the dust in my face and eyes.
My brother told me to get ready the dinner;        15
My sister-in-law told me to see after the horses.
I was always going up into the hall
And running down again to the parlor.
My tears fell like a shower of rain.
In the morning they sent me to draw water;        20
I didn’t get back till night-fall.
My hands were all sore,
And I hadn’t any shoes;
I walked the cold earth
Treading on the thorns and brambles.        25
As I stopped to pull out the thorns,
How bitter my heart was!—
My tears fell and fell
And I went on sobbing and sobbing.
In winter I have no great-coat,        30
Nor in summer thin clothes.
It is no pleasure to be alive;
I had rather quickly leave this earth
And go beneath the Yellow Springs.
The April winds blow        35
And the grass grows so green:
In the third month, silk worms and mulberries;
In the sixth month, the melon-harvest.
I went out with the melon-cart,
And just as I was coming home        40
The melon-cart turned over.
The people who came to help me were few,
But the people who ate the melons were many.
All they left me was the stalks;
I took them home as fast as I could.        45
My brother and sister-in-law were harsh;
They asked me all sorts of awful questions.
Why does every one in the village blame me?
I want to write a letter and send it
To my father and mother under the earth        50
And tell them I can’t go on any longer
Living with my brother and my sister-in-law.
 
 
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