Song of the Wagons
Song of the Wagons
天阴雨湿声啾啾 bīng chē xíng
chē lín lín
mǎ xiāo xiāo
xíng rén gōng jiàn gè zài yāo
yē niáng qī zǐ zǒu xiāng sòng
chén āi bú jiàn xián yáng qiáo
qiān yī dùn zú lán dào kū
kū shēng zhí shàng gān yún xiāo
dào páng guò zhě wèn xíng rén
xíng rén dàn yún diǎn xíng pín
huò cóng shí wǔ běi fáng hé
biàn zhì sì shí xī yíng tián
qù shí lǐ zhèng yǔ guǒ tóu
guī lái tóu bái huán shù biān
biān tíng liú xuè chéng hǎi shuǐ
wǔ huáng kāi biān yì wèi yǐ
jūn bù wén hàn jiā shān dōng èr bǎi zhōu
qiān cūn wàn luò shēng jīng qǐ
zòng yǒu jiàn fù bǎ chú lí
hé shēng lǒng mǔ wú dōng xī
kuàng fù qín bīng nài kǔ zhàn
bèi qū bú yì quǎn yǔ jī
zhǎng zhě suī yǒu wèn
yì fū gǎn shēn hèn
qiě rú jīn nián dōng
wèi xiū guān xī zú
xiàn guān jí suǒ zū
zū shuì cóng hé chū
xìn zhī shēng nán è
fǎn shì shēng nǚ hǎo
shēng nǚ yóu dé jià bǐ lín
shēng nán mái mò suí bǎi cǎo
jūn bú jiàn qīng hǎi tóu
gǔ lái bái gǔ wú rén shōu
xīn guǐ fán yuàn jiù guǐ kū
tiān yīn yǔ shī shēng jiū jiū Wagons rumble rumble
Hhorses whinny whinny
Foot person bow arrow each at waist
Father mother wife children go mutual see off
Dust dust not see Xianyang bridge
Pull clothes stamp foot bar way weep
Weep sound directly up strike clouds clouds
Road side passerby ask foot person
Foot person only say mark down often
Some from ten five north guard river
Even until four ten west army fields
Leave time village chief give bind head
Return come head white go back garrison border
Border post shed blood become sea water
Warlike emperor expand border idea no end
Gentleman not see Han homes hill east two hundred districts
1000 villages 10000 hamlets grow thorns trees
Though be strong women hold hoe plough
Seed grow dyked field not order
Besides again Qin soldier withstand bitter fighting
Be driven not different dogs and chickens
Venerable elder though be ask
Battle person dare state bitterness
Even like this year winter
Not stop pass west soldier
District official urgent demand tax
Tax tax way how pay
True know produce males bad
Contrast be produce females good
Produce female still get married neighbour
Produce male bury follow hundred grass
Gentleman not see Qinghai edge
Past come white skeleton no person gather
New ghost vexed injustice old ghosts weep
Heaven dark rain wet sound screech screech The wagons rumble and roll,
The horses whinny and neigh,
The conscripts each have bows and arrows at their waists.
Their parents, wives and children run to see them off,
So much dust's stirred up, it hides the Xianyang bridge.
They pull clothes, stamp their feet and, weeping, bar the way,
The weeping voices rise straight up and strike the clouds.
A passer-by at the roadside asks a conscript why,
The conscript answers only that drafting happens often.
"At fifteen, many were sent north to guard the river,
Even at forty, they had to till fields in the west.
When we went away, the elders bound our heads,
Returning with heads white, we're sent back off to the frontier.
At the border posts, shed blood becomes a sea,
The martial emperor's dream of expansion has no end.
Have you not seen the two hundred districts east of the mountains,
Where thorns and brambles grow in countless villages and hamlets?
Although there are strong women to grasp the hoe and the plough,
They grow some crops, but there's no order in the fields.
What's more, we soldiers of Qin withstand the bitterest fighting,
We're always driven onwards just like dogs and chickens.
Although an elder can ask me this,
How can a soldier dare to complain?
Even in this winter time,
Soldiers from west of the pass keep moving.
The magistrate is eager for taxes,
But how can we afford to pay?
We know now having boys is bad,
While having girls is for the best;
Our girls can still be married to the neighbours,
Our sons are merely buried amid the grass.
Have you not seen on the border of Qinghai,
The ancient bleached bones no man's gathered in?
The new ghosts are angered by injustice, the old ghosts weep,
Moistening rain falls from dark heaven on the voices' screeching."
View Chinese text in traditional characters.
Other Chinese poems about War.
Notes: This poem dates from around 750 (Watson p. 8) or 751 (Hawkes p. 10). The Xianyang bridge was southwest (Hawkes p. 12) or north (Watson p. 9) of Chang'an; in either case, the conscripts are being sent to fight on the western border. The soldiers guarding the river were guarding the Yellow River; those tilling fields in the west worked at garrisons with their own farms, to make them self-sufficient (Hawkes p. 13). The martial emperor was emperor Wu of the Han dynasty, here standing in for the current emperor, Xuanzong (Hawkes p. 14). Qin and west of the pass both refer to the Chang'an area (Watson p. 9); Qinghai is on the border with Tibet (Watson p. 9).
This poem is volume (juàn) 216, no. 11 in the Complete Tang Poems (quán táng shī). It is translated as poem 2 in Hawkes, pp. 5-17, poem 6 in Watson, pp. 8-9, poem XXIX in Hung, pp. 64-5, and on pp. 468-9 of Owen and pp. 10-11 of Hinton.