The Gallant Captain and the Innkeeper's Wife

BY SIN YEN-NIEN

Han Dynasty (206 b.c. to a.d. 220)

Among the near attendants of the famous General Ho,
The Champion of the Emperor Wu and terror of his foe,
Was a gay and gilded youth of the name of Fung Tze-tu,
Who loved to slay the fair sex as the general did Hsiong-nu;
Presuming on his master's fame he bantered every girl,
And fancied he himself was great—he lived in such a whirl.
The landlord of the wine-shop was scarcely a man of means,
But had a young and pretty wife not yet out of her teens;
And with this charming lady Fung Tze-tu was wont to flirt;
But though so young and charming she was very much alert.
One day in Spring this hostess fair, in gracious serving mood,
Alone attended to the wants of guests for wine and food.
Attired in flowing skirt, and girdled loose with girlish wile,
Embroidered vest and wide-sleeved outer robe of ancient style;
Her slender head on either side with massive tresses graced,
And crowned with Lan-tien jade, below with Ta-tsin pearls enlaced:
This young and dainty figure, said the gallants with a sigh,
Was a sight with which no other on this earth could ever vie;
And as they posed before her in their elegant attire,
She deftly filled their glasses, and allowed them to admire.
Just as this dainty hostess stood alone within the inn,
Preparing special vintages selected from the bin,
Up rode a gay young officer with canopy of rank,
Accompanied by attendants afoot on either flank;
His charger's handsome trappings richly bound at every joint,
And silver-mounted saddle burnished to the flashing point,—
Alighting from his horse there stood the son of the Kin-Wu,
The very gallant officer, the dashing Fung Tze-tu.
He called for wine in tasselled jug, and carp on golden plate,
And thought such lavish bravery the lady would elate;
Besides such show he offered her a mirror burnished bright,
Together with a red silk skirt of gauzy texture light;
All these, he thought, must surely daze the eyes of woman vain,
Who does not give her smiles for love, but for the greatest gain:
Alas! within the lady's mind quite other thoughts found vent,
More poignant when she spied within the red silk skirt a rent.
The rent within the skirt, she mused, no pang in you has wrought,
Nor would the loss of my good name cause you a serious thought;
For men soon tire of wives and seek their joys in faces new,
But wives are true to their first spouse and gallants do eschew;
Among the lowly born, as in the camp or royal abode,
Are women who are true to death to honour's stainless code:
I thank you for the favours shown, brave son of the Kin-Wu,
But this time you have loved in vain, my gallant Fung Tze-tu!