Eugene Levich

A Military Campaign Against The Nomads... By Li Qi (690-751 Ce) - Poem by Eugene Levich

During the day scouts climb the hills to watch for signal fires.
At dusk soldiers lead horses to water at the river frontier.
They struggle to listen through the dark swirling sandstorms for sounds of warning.
The princess plays many sad and bitter songs on the strings of her guitar,
As not a single city wall stands within ten thousand li of our encampments,
And rain and snow pelt us interminably as we march across the great desert.
Wild geese cry mournfully night after night as they fly by.
Wild Tartar children shed tears upon tears... their eyes never dry.
We hear that the Yumen Pass garrison lies still under siege.
To fly to their rescue we send fast-moving charioteers.
Year after year the bones of our dead are buried in this wilderness.
In recompense the Tartars send only grapes as tribute to the Han.

古從軍行 Gu3 cong2 jun1 xing2

李頎 Li3 Qi2

白日登山望烽火 Bai2 ri4 deng1 shan1 wang4 feng1 huo3
黃昏飲馬傍交河 Huang2 hun1 yin3 ma3 bang1 jiao1 he2
行人刁斗風沙暗 Xing2 ren2 diao1 dou3 feng1 sha1 an4
公主琵琶幽怨多 Gong1 ju3 pi2 pa2 you1 yuan4 do1
野營萬里無城郭 Ye3 ying2 wan4 li3 wu2 cheng2 guo1
雨雪紛紛連大漠 You3 xue3 fen1 fen1 lian2 da4 mo4
胡鴈哀鳴夜夜飛 Hu2 yan4 ai1 ming2 ye4 ye4 fei1
胡兒眼淚雙雙落 Hu2 er2 yan3 lei4 shuang1 shuang1 luo4
聞道玉門蕕被遮 Wen2 dao4 yu4 men2 yu2 bei4 zhe1
應將性命逐輕軍 Ying1 jiang1 shing4 ming4zhu2 qing1 jun1
年年戰骨埋荒外 Nian2 nian2 zhan4 gu3 mai2 huang1wai4
空見葡萄入漢家 Kong1 jian4 pu2 tao2 ru4 Han4 jia1

Topic(s) of this poem: war

Poet's Notes about The Poem

Li Qi describes a massive Han dynasty military expedition occurring about eight hundred years prior to his own lifetime. The events described here probably occurred sometime between 133 and 119 BCE. The unhappy princess probably was Xi Jun, one of a number of high-born women sent to marry nomadic chieftains in order to cement alliances. She wrote a famous poem lamenting her fate. Soldiers clanged on their cooking pots to warn their fellows of a night attack. Yumen Pass was a Chinese western frontier outpost on the Silk Road. Its ruins still stand. Grapes apparently were brought into China for the first time as a result of this war. A Chinese li is approximately one-third of an English mile. The area of the People's Republic of China described here, Xinjiang Province [Chinese Turkestan], remains in turmoil today, the local Muslim population rebellious against Chinese rule.

Comments about A Military Campaign Against The Nomads... By Li Qi (690-751 Ce) by Eugene Levich

  • Darlene Walsh (8/27/2015 5:26:00 PM)

    I love historical poems. My favorite lines are the last two
    Year after year the bones of our dead are buried in this wilderness.
    In recompense the Tartars send only grapes as tribute to the Han.

    An appropriate description of war. This prompted me to Google Li Qi (690-751 Ce) . It appears he was a famous poet from the Tang Dynasty, but I couldn't find much about him. I did find a book that I believe includes some of his poems (translated of course) , Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry, which I have ordered. I haven't read any Chinese poems yet so this will be a new experience for me. I have read several annotated versions of Sun Tsu's 'The Art of War' and found it fascinating, so I hope to enjoy these poems also.

    Thanks for the inspiration :)
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  • Bri Edwards (8/16/2015 7:22:00 PM)

    a very interesting poem [usually I try not to say interesting about poems, because I think it, saying “interesting”, is ‘lame’]. I recommend reading the poet’s notes. I found the translation to follow the original Chinese to perfection! (yes, I’m fluent in many languages! ! ! ! heh heh)

    this is my second choice for placing in my/our August showcase on my PH site IF Eugene allows it.
    this shall also go to MyPoemList (mostly as a curiosity; also to help me to remember ‘Gino’ in future years, if I last that long) .

    any fault I may have found in the translation must be due, completely, to the fault of the original poet!

    bri :)
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  • (4/2/2014 6:45:00 PM)

    Hu2, Eugene. But what is the purpose of the numbers after each word? (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Poem Edited: Saturday, October 3, 2015

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