Giving Up Drinking: Fan, Upon Retiring, Urges Me to Give Up Drinking

COOL POEMS: Introduction > THE POEMS

Topic: Giving Up Drinking

Author: Mei Yaochen (1002-1060)

Fan, Upon Retiring, Urges Me to Give Up Drinking

In my youth I liked hard drinking,
But lately the hard drinkers are few.
Now my teeth and hair are falling out,
Even should I drink, I don’t drink a lot.
Every time I drink, I end up throwing up;
How can this be good for the body?
Hung over in the morning, can’t lift my head,
The room’s four walls swirling around,
Seeking after fun, in the end I only got sick.
How can one sustain life like that?
From now on I swear I’ll quit!
Though I fear people might make fun;
Old Fan is good for encouragement,
Preaching to me, never giving an inch.
And thus I know why I ought to cease,
And what will happen if I don’t!

Comments: This poem is an example of the Song literary principle: “Taking the ordinary/vulgar and making it beautiful.” Song poets would write about all manner of ordinary things, including pets, rat piss, or throwing up. It was all part of the valorization of ordinary life (see Xin Qiji’s poem on “Passing the Night Alone at Boshan”). What makes such poems “beautiful” is not necessarily that they try to beautify what is ugly, but that they bring out the deeper meaning in such things, the way in which they touch upon our common humanity. In this poem Mei exposes his human frailties, revealing at once his own unabashed freedom from social constraint as well as his friend’s kindness and compassion. Of course it is also a poem about friendship and this, too, is a beautiful thing, no?

Back to top