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Shijing (The Book of Songs) (4)

 

WE PLUCK THE BRACKEN
from Xiaoya

We plucked the bracken, plucked the bracken
While the young shoots were springing up.
Oh,to go back, go back!
The year is ending.
We have no house, no home
Because of the Xianyun;
We cannot rest or bide
Because of the Xianyun.

We plucked the bracken,plucked the bracken
While the shoots were soft.
Oh,to go back,go back!
Our hearts are sad,
Our sad hearts burn,
We are hungry and thirsty,
But our campaign is not over,
Nor is any of us sent home with news.

We plucked the bracken,plucked the bracken;
But the shoots were hard.
Oh, to go back,to back!
The year is running out.
But the king's business never ends;
We cannot rest or bide.
Our hearts are very bitter;
We cannot rest or bide.
Our hearts are very bitter;
We went, but do not come.

What splendid thing is that?
It is the flower of the cherry-tree.
What great carriage is that?
It is our lord's chariot,
His war-chariot ready yoked,
With its four steeds so eager.
How should we dare stop or tarry?
In one month we have had three alarms.

We yoke the teams of four,
Those steeds of strong,
That our lord rides behind,
That lesser men protect.
The four steeds so grand,
The ivory bow-ends, the fish-skin quiver.
Yes, we must be always on our guard;
The Xianyun are very swift.

Long ago, when we started,
The willows spread their shade.
Now that we turn back
The snowflakes fly.
The march before us is long,
We are thirsty and hungry,
Our hearts are stricken with sorrow,
But no one listens to our plaint.

[NOTES]

This is a poem written by a soldier coming back from the frontier.

Xianyun: A minority in the north of China. It was called the Xiongnu in the Warring states period, and in the Qin and Han Dynasties.

That our lord rides behind: Orig--That our lord rides.

That lesser men protect: --Orig. That the soldiers seek protect from.HALLOA!
from Zhou Song
Halloa! King Cheng
Has called you here.
Prime your farm men
To sow the grains.

Horse-swift out tools:
Full thirty lis
Are yours to plough,
Ten thousand paired.

[NOTES]

This poem was written in time of King Cheng, the second King of Zhou(1115-1079B.C.), showing the kind of mass farming employing 10,000 hands then in existence, supervised by the King himself.

Zhou Song: Festal Hymns and Songs of The Early Zhou.

lis: The ancient li consisted of 300 mu, the mu being a unit of 100 paces square. Here "thirty lis" refers to private land.

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