Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Grain-Tribute

There came an officer knocking by night at my door-
In a loud voice demanding grain-tribute.
My house-servants dared not wait till the morning,
But brought candles and set them on the barn-floor.
Passed through the sieve, clean-washed as pearls,
A whole cart-load, thirty bushels of grain.
But still they cry that it is not paid in full:
With whips and curses they goad my servants and boys.
Once, in error, I entered public life;
I am inwardly ashamed that my talents were not sufficient.
In succession I occupied four official posts;
For doing nothing, - ten year's salary!
Often I heard that saying of ancient men
That "good and ill follow in endless chain."
And today it ought to set my heart at rest
To return to others the corn in my great barn.

Po Chü-i (772 - 846). More here.
Translated from the Chinese by Arthur Waley.


rogerh said...

Most fitting.

A K Haart said...

Glad you liked it.