Han Yu: An Elegiac Address to the Twelfth Nephew ~ 韩愈 《祭十二郎文》 with English Translations

小编导读:《祭十二郎文》是唐代文学家韩愈的一篇对其侄十二郎的祭文。文章既没有铺排,也没有张扬,作者善于融抒情于叙事之中,在对身世、家常、生活遭际朴实的叙述中,表现出对兄嫂及侄儿深切的怀念和痛惜,一往情深,感人肺腑。


韩愈 《祭十二郎文》

年月日,季父愈闻汝丧七日,乃能衔哀致诚,使建中远具时羞之奠,告汝十二郎之灵:
呜呼!吾少孤,及长,不省所怙,惟兄嫂是依。中年兄殁南方,吾与汝俱幼,从嫂归葬河阳;既又与汝就食江南,零丁孤苦,未尝一日相离也。吾上有三兄,皆不幸早世。承先人后者,在孙惟汝,在子惟吾,两世一身,形单影只。嫂尝抚汝指吾而言曰:“韩氏两世,惟此而已!”汝时尤小,当不复记忆,吾时虽能记忆,亦未知其言之悲也。
吾年十九,始来京城,其后四年,又归视汝。又四年,吾往河阳省坟墓,遇汝从嫂丧来葬。又二年,吾佐董丞相于汴州,汝来省吾,止一岁,请归取其孥。明年,丞相薨,吾去汴州,汝不果来。是年,吾又佐戎徐州,使取汝者始行,吾又罢去,汝又不果来。吾念汝从于东,东亦客也,不可以久;图久远者,莫如西归,将成家而致汝。呜呼!孰谓汝遽去吾而殁乎!
吾与汝俱少年,以为虽暂相别,终当久相与处,故舍汝而旅食京师,以求升斗之禄;诚知其如此,虽万乘之公相,吾不以一日辍汝而就也!
去年,孟东野往,吾书与汝曰:“吾年未四十,而视茫茫,而发苍苍,而齿牙动摇。念诸父与诸兄,皆康强而早世,如吾之衰者,其能久存乎?吾不可去,汝不肯来,恐旦暮死,而汝抱无涯之戚也。”孰谓少者殁而长者存,强者夭而病者全乎?
呜呼!其信然邪?其梦耶?其传之非其真邪?信也,吾兄之盛德而夭其嗣乎?汝之纯明而不克蒙其泽乎?少者强者而夭殁,长者衰者而存全乎?未可以为信也。梦也,传之非其真也,东野之书,耿兰之报,何为而在吾侧也?呜呼!其信然矣!吾兄之盛德而夭其嗣矣!汝之纯明宜业其家者?而不克蒙其泽矣!所谓天者诚难测,而神者诚难明矣!所谓理者不可推,而寿者不可知矣!
虽然,吾自今年来,苍苍者或化而为白矣,动摇者或脱而落矣,毛血日益衰,志气日益微,几何不从汝而死也。死而有知,其几何离;其无知,悲不几时,而不悲者无穷期矣!
汝之子始十岁,吾之子始五岁,少而疆者不可保,如此孩提者,又可冀其成立邪?呜呼哀哉!呜呼哀哉!
汝去年书云:“比得软脚病,往往而剧。”吾曰:“是疾也,江南之人,常常有之。”未始以为忧也。呜呼!其竟以此而殒其生乎?抑别有疾而至斯乎?
汝之书,六月十七日也;东野云:汝殁以六月二日。耿兰之报无月日。盖东野之使者,不知问家人以月日;如耿兰之报,不知当言月日;东野与吾书,乃问使者,使者妄称以应之耳。其然乎?其不然乎?
今吾使健中祭汝,吊汝之孤与汝之乳母。彼有食可守以待终丧,则待终丧而取以来;如不能守以终丧,则遂取以来。其余奴婢,并令守汝丧。吾力能改葬,终葬汝于先人之兆,然后惟其所愿。
呜呼!汝病吾不知时,汝殁吾不知日,生不能相养以共居,殁不能抚汝以尽哀。殓不凭其棺,窆不临其穴。吾行负神明而使汝夭。不孝不慈,而不能与汝相养以生,相守以死。一在天之涯,一在地之角,生而影不与吾形相依,死而魂不与吾梦相接,吾实为之,其又何尤!彼苍者天,曷其有极!自今已往,吾其无意于人世矣,当求数顷之田于伊、颍之上,以待馀年。教吾子与汝子,幸其成;吾女与汝女,待其嫁:如此而已。
呜呼!言有穷而情不可终,汝其知也邪?其不知也邪?呜呼哀哉!
尚飨。

An Elegiac Address to the Twelfth Nephew
Han Yu

Day, month, year. I, your youngest uncle, Han Yu, overwhelmed with grief, sent Jianzhong on my behalf to offer you sacrifices to express my deep feelings for you, seven days after I heard about your death. Jianzhong had bought seasonal delicacies from a distant place as sacrificial offerings to your departed soul.
Alas! I lost my father during my early childhood. When I grew up, I did not know what my father was like. I was dependent on my eldest brother and his wife. My eldest brother, your father, was middle-aged when he died in the south, and together we accompanied his widow to bury him in Heyang. Then you and I went to the south to make a living. We two were orphaned and helpless and clung to each other’s company every day. I had three brothers older than I, but unfortunately they all died early. In our family, you and I were the only descendants, you being of the third generation and I of the second generation. Of those two generations, each had only one successor remaining. We two were extremely lonely, with only our shadows left to us. My sister-in-law used to fondle you while pointing her finger at me, saying, “You two are the only survivors of the Han family.” You were only an infant and could not understand her. And although I was able to recall what she said, I did not recognize the sadness in her words.
When I was nineteen, I went to the capital. Four years later I came home to visit you. Another four years passed. I went to Heyang to visit the graves of our ancestors, and met you there where you had the coffin of your mother interred. Two years later, you came to see me in Bianzhou as I was working for Chengxiang Dong. You stayed for a year, and then went home, intending to bring your family over. But in the following year Chengxiang Dong died and I left Bianzhou before you could come back. That year I took office in Xuzhou , working as an official in charge of military supply. When the man I sent to fetch you had just set out, I left my post (11). Again you did not come. I thought even if you had come to the east , you would not have stayed long, for, after all, the east was not our native place. As a long-term plan I had better return to the west , establish myself and welcome you into my household. Alas! Who could have thought that you would suddenly die and leave me behind?
You and I were both young and I believed that although we might part for a brief period of time, we would eventually live together for a long time. Therefore, I left you and took up my residence in the capital to earn an official’s meager salary. Had I known what would happen, I would not have left you for a single day, even if I were appointed to the highest office with ten thousand carriages at my command.
Last year, when Meng Dongye went south, I asked him to bring a letter to you in which I wrote, “I am barely forty years old, but my eyesight is falling, my hair is graying and my teeth are loose. My uncles and brothers were all physically strong, but they all died in the prime of life. Delicate as I am, how can I live long? I cannot leave my post and you will not be coming. I might die at any moment, and you would be brought to eternal grief.” Who can explain why the younger one dies whereas the elder one lives on, and why the healthy one succumbs early whereas the fragile one survives?
Alas! Was the news true? Or was it a hallucination? Or was it mere misinformation? If it was true, then why is it that my brother, who was a man of virtue, should have his son die young? Why couldn’t his innocent and brilliant son be blessed by his goodness? Was it fair that the frail, elderly man should outlive the vigorous youth? I could not believe it was true. It was a hallucination, or a rumor. Then why is it that Dongye’s letter and Genglan’s obituary notice are at hand here? Alas! Then the news must be true. A virtuous man like my eldest brother had the life of his son taken away at an early age. An innocent and brilliant man like you, who should have carried on the family line, could not enjoy the blessings of his father. How unpredictable is Heaven’s will! And how unfathomable is God’s disposition! That is why the logic of things can never be reasoned out, and the continuation of one’s existence cannot be foretold.
Nevertheless, since the beginning of this year, my gray hair has faded to white, and my loose teeth have decayed or fallen off. I am growing weaker and weaker and my vigor is waning. It won’t be long before I follow you and die. If you should have consciousness after death, then our separation won’t be long. If not, my grief will not last long either; eternity will follow in which I will be oblivious of grief.
Your son is just ten years old and my son is five. There exists no guarantee that these young and healthy ones will live long. How can we expect them to grow up to fulfill their careers? Alas! Alas!
Last year you wrote to me, saying, “I am suffering from numbness in the feet and sometimes it is growing worse.” I replied, “Many people in the south suffer from that kind of illness.” It did not cause me much anxiety. Did you eventually die of it? Or was it some other illness?
I received your letter which was written on June the seventeenth. Dongye said that you died on June the second. The obituary notice Genglan brought me gave no date of your death, but it was very likely that Dongye’s messenger did not even ask your family about the date of your death. Genglan should know that an obituary notice should mention the date of death. How could he fail to mention yours? Perhaps when Dongye was writing the letter to me, he asked the messenger about the date, and the messenger mentioned a date at random. Was this guess true? Or not?
Now I am sending Jianzhong to offer you sacrifices and pay condolences to your children and your wet nurse. If they do not lack for food, they will remain beside you till the days of mourning have passed. Then I will welcome them to my place. If they cannot do so, I will have them brought me without delay, and let the remaining servants carry on mourning until the end. If I can, I will move your coffin back home and re-inter you in the ancestral burial grounds in order to fulfill my lifelong wish.
Alas! I did not know when you were ill. Nor did I know the date of your death. When you were alive, I did not live with you to support you. When you were dead, I did not mourn over your remains to give vent to my bitter grief. When you were lying in the coffin, I did not follow the funeral procession. When you were interred, I did not come to your grave. I fear I am the cause of your untimely death as I have failed to live up to the expectations of the gods. I am neither kind nor filial. I did not live together with you to take care of you, nor die in your company. Now you are in the remotest edge of the heaven while I am in the remotest corner of the earth. When you were living, we were not always together as body and shadow, and now that you are dead, your soul does not meet me in my dream. It was all my own doing. When will my grief come to an end? I have no wish to live on, and will buy several hundred mu of land by the Yi and the Ying rivers upon which to spend the rest of my life. I will educate my son and your son, hoping they will grow up to be men and I will bring up my daughter and your daughter and marry them off. Then can my wish be fulfilled.
Ah! My words have expired, but my grief has no end. Do you know or don’t you know? Ah! How sorrowful I am!
May you partake of the offerings.

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