And I could sleep soundly and late in the morning

Yuan Jie




In the year Kuimao the bandits from Xiyuan entered Daozhou, set fire, raided, killed, and looted. The whole district was almost ruined. The next year the bandits came again and, attacking the neighbouring prefecture, Yong, passed this one by. It was not because we were strong enough to defend ourselves, but, probably, because they pitied us. And how now can these commissioners bear to impose extra taxes? I have written this poem for the collectors’ information.

I still remember those days of peace —

Twenty years among mountains and forests,

The pure stream running past my yard,

The caves and valleys at my door.

Taxes were light and regular then,

And I could sleep soundly and late in the morning-

Till suddenly came a sorry change.

…For years now I have been serving in the army.

When I began here as an official,

The mountain bandits were rising again;

But the town was so small it was spared by the thieves,

And the people so poor and so pitiable

That all other districts were looted

And this one this time let alone.

…Do you imperial commissioners

Mean to be less kind than bandits?

The people you force to pay the poll

Are like creatures frying over a fire.

And how can you sacrifice human lives,

Just to be known as able collectors? —

…Oh, let me fling down my official seal,

Let me be a lone fisherman in a small boat

And support my family on fish and wheat

And content my old age with rivers and lakes!

Wei Yingwu




Outside are insignia, shown in state;

But here are sweet incense-clouds, quietly ours.

Wind and rain, coming in from sea,

Have cooled this pavilion above the lake

And driven the feverish heat away

From where my eminent guests are gathered.

…Ashamed though I am of my high position

While people lead unhappy lives,

Let us reasonably banish care

And just be friends, enjoying nature.

Though we have to go without fish and meat,

There are fruits and vegetables aplenty.

…We bow, we take our cups of wine,

We give our attention to beautiful poems.

When the mind is exalted, the body is lightened

And feels as if it could float in the wind

…Suzhou is famed as a centre of letters;

And all you writers, coming here,

Prove that the name of a great land

Is made by better things than wealth.