Xu Shu's Reply to Her Husband's Letter
By sending me a letter and in addition bestowing upon me all these gifts you reveal a devotion and a solicitude far beyond my expectations.
The mirror possesses elegant beauty, the hairpins are striking in appearance, the perfume has rare qualities and the plain zither is also excellent. Presenting these marvelous gifts to your humble wife you have parted with things that you yourself highly treasure to bestow them upon another. Unless it be a husband capable of truly deep affection, who could act in this way?
I handle the mirror and take hold of the hairpins, my longing mood responds; I grasp the zither and recite a poem, my loving heart is tied into knots. But when you to let the perfume render my body fragrant and instruct me to let the bright mirror reflect my features your words indeed err, revealing that you have failed to fathom my heart. A poetess of the past was moved to liken her unkempt hair to "flying Artemisia";1 in her plaintive poem Ban Jieyu asks: "For whom shall I make myself fair?"2
Until you, my lord, return, the plain zither must remain mute; until you, my lord, come back, the bright mirror must lie idle. Before I greet your noble countenance the jeweled hairpins shall not be stuck in my hair; before I wait upon you within the bed curtains the fragrant of perfume shall not issue from my body.
1. A reference to the second stanza of the ode "Bo xi" (Oh my lord" in the Shi jing: Since you, my lord, went to the East, my hair is unkempt like flying Artemisia.
2. A reference to Lady Ban Jieyu, a favorite of Emperor Cheng of Han, who was displaced by Zhao Feiyan. A lament attributed to Ban Jieyu contains the following line: For whom shall I make myself fair when you, my lord, no longer favor me with your affection?
（G?ran Malmqvist 譯）