In this week leading up to the 4th August, the centenary of the beginning of WW1, I am posting a series of poems in tribute to the fallen of other centuries and other countries.
Lament of the Frontier Guard
By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand,
Lonely from the beginning of time until now!
Trees rail, the grass goes yellow with autumn.
I climb the towers and towers
to watch out the barbarous land:
Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert.
There is no wall left to this village.
Bones white with a thousand frosts,
High heaps, covered with trees and grass;
Who brought this to pass?
Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?
Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?
A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,
A turmoil of wars-men, spread over the middle kingdom,
Three hundred and sixty thousand,
And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning.
Desolate, desolate fields,
And no children of warfare upon them,
No longer the men for offence and defence.
Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate,
With Rihaku’s name forgotten,
And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.