Bai Juyi: On The Wheat Harvesting
Translated by Yiyan Han (c) 2021-08-15
All year long peasants are busy, and even busier in May:
When southerly winds blow, the hilly wheat field turns golden yellow. (1)
Women carrying meals in baskets, and children water jars,
walk in line to deliver food to men in the south hill fields.
Men’s bare feet are burned by the burning ground,
and backs baked under the baking sun.
Though exhausted, they seem to have ignored the heat
instead the long days of summer are cherished.
A poor woman with a baby on her back is seen in the harvested field,
with a broken basket in her left hand, she picks up some wheat left on the ground.
Everyone has felt sad when hearing her story: She has to collect leftover cereals
to feed her family ’cause her own field has been sold to pay heavy taxes.
What merit do I have as I never do any hard labour like peasants?
As a government official, my yearly salary is so good that I won’t short on cash.
On my recollection I feel ashamed and can never forget about this.
Bai Juyi (白居易, 772–846), courtesy name Letian (樂天), was a renowned Chinese poet and a government official in Tang Dynasty. An appreciation in Chinese of this classic piece may be found at https://www.arteducation.com.tw/shiwenv_796882166eaf.html
(1) The lunar month in the Chinese calendar.