taxes were taken…

In past years I lived in an age of peace,
Twenty years amid mountains and forests.
Springs lay by the door of my yard,
Caves and ravines, right before my gate.
Field taxes were taken at regular times;
At sundown a man could still sleep in peace.
All at once we came into times of trouble,
And I served several years under battle flags.
Now, as I govern this commandery,
The mountain tribes are running wild.
The city, so small that raiders did not sack it.
But its people are poor, their wounds to be pitied.
Thus, when the neighboring regions were plundered,
This prefecture alone remained intact.
Then come commisioners with royal commands-
Surely they must be better than the raiders!
But with their exactions and their collections
They harry us like a simmering fire-
What kind of person would end men’s lives
to be a Great Worthy of the age?
How I long to cast down my symbols of office,
Take fishing pole, punt my own boat away,
Go with my family where there is fish and grain,
To live out my life by the Yangtze and sea!

Yüan Chieh, After the Raiders Have Gone: To Clerks and Officials, written in 763 C.E., From: The Great Age of Chinese Poetry: The High Tang by: Stephen Owen, Yale University Press, 1981


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