756. Drinking Song, by Ts'ao Ts'ao

Drinking, I sing of peace and of equality:

The tax collector knocks at no gate;
all rulers are virtuous and bright,
and their arms and legs, the ministers, are kind.

The people are well mannered, yielding without
foregoing litigation.

Three years' tilling makes nine years' provisions—
granaries overflow.
Our elders' backs are freed from loads.
Each fecund rain
contributes to the harvest.

Our fastest horses are withdrawn from war
to carry fertilizer.

Those who hold land or titles
show genuine affection for people,
promoting or demoting by merit,
attending like fathers or brothers.

receive a fitting punishment.
No one keeps what's found beside the road.
The prisons are all empty.
Midwinter courts have no criminals to try.

People of eight or ninety
live out their lives quite naturally.

Great virtue impermeates it all—
even trees and plants and tiny things that crawl.

(trans Sam Hamill)

Source: Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese

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