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On Being Sixty

A poem by Po Chü-i

  • Addressed to Liu Mēng-tē
  • Between thirty and forty, one is distracted by the Five Lusts;
  • Between seventy and eighty, one is a prey to a hundred diseases.
  • But from fifty to sixty one is free from all ills;
  • Calm and still — the heart enjoys rest.
  • I have put behind the Love and Greed; I have done with Profit and Fame;
  • I am still short of illness and decay and far from decrepit age.
  • Strength of limb I still possess to seek the rivers and hills;
  • Still my heart has spirit enough to listen to flutes and strings.
  • At leisure I open new wine and taste several cups;
  • Drunken I recall old poems and sing a whole volume.
  • Mēng-tē has asked for a poem and herewith I exhort him
  • Not to complain of three-score, “the time of obedient ears.”
  • — translated by Arthur Waley

Arthur Waley (1889–1966), one of the great translators of Chinese poetry, explains in a note to this poem that Liu Mēng-tē, who was the same age as Po Chü-i, had asked Po to write him a poem. Waley also explains in another note that “Confucius said that it was not till sixty that his ears obeyed him.” This age was therefore called “the time of obedient ears.” The great T’ang dynasty poet Po Chü-i (772–846) is said to have tried out all his new poems on an elderly peasant woman of his acquaintance to make sure that she could understand them, because he wanted to be sure that all his work was entirely clear. He became mayor of Lo-yang, the eastern capital of China, was a popular poet in his own time, and has remained an immensely popular poet in China throughout the centuries. Many editions of Waley’s translations of Po Chü-i and other notable Chinese poets remain in print.

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  • Addressed to Liu Mēng-tē
  • Between thirty and forty, one is distracted by the Five Lusts;
  • Between seventy and eighty, one is a prey to a hundred diseases.
  • But from fifty to sixty one is free from all ills;
  • Calm and still — the heart enjoys rest.
  • I have put behind the Love and Greed; I have done with Profit and Fame;
  • I am still short of illness and decay and far from decrepit age.
  • Strength of limb I still possess to seek the rivers and hills;
  • Still my heart has spirit enough to listen to flutes and strings.
  • At leisure I open new wine and taste several cups;
  • Drunken I recall old poems and sing a whole volume.
  • Mēng-tē has asked for a poem and herewith I exhort him
  • Not to complain of three-score, “the time of obedient ears.”
  • — translated by Arthur Waley

Arthur Waley (1889–1966), one of the great translators of Chinese poetry, explains in a note to this poem that Liu Mēng-tē, who was the same age as Po Chü-i, had asked Po to write him a poem. Waley also explains in another note that “Confucius said that it was not till sixty that his ears obeyed him.” This age was therefore called “the time of obedient ears.” The great T’ang dynasty poet Po Chü-i (772–846) is said to have tried out all his new poems on an elderly peasant woman of his acquaintance to make sure that she could understand them, because he wanted to be sure that all his work was entirely clear. He became mayor of Lo-yang, the eastern capital of China, was a popular poet in his own time, and has remained an immensely popular poet in China throughout the centuries. Many editions of Waley’s translations of Po Chü-i and other notable Chinese poets remain in print.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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