December 31, 2013

Serious Thoughts On New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve--you'd think I could go home early
But official business keeps me.
I hold the brush and face them with tears:
Pitiful convicts in chains,
Little men who tried to fill their bellies,
Fell into the law's net, don't understand disgrace.
And I?  In love with a meager stipend
I hold on to my job and miss the chance to retire.
Do not ask who is foolish or wise;
All of us alike scheme for a meal.
The ancients would have freed them a while at New Year's--
Would I dare do likewise? I am silent with shame.
~Su Dungpo (1037-1101)
from An Introduction to Sung Poetry by Kojiro Yoshikawa, 
transl. by Burton Watson

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