Inscription on a Chinese Ceramic Vessel


These evenings
I have many visitors
among my officers;
we drink tea and wine
and talk about the time
when we can drive the Mongols out.


I remember springs
filled with the wings
of a thousand butterflies.

When summer came
the trees were heavy
with the nests of bees.

Autumn; my officers
come in from the hills,
and we talk.

In winter it is always cold outside.
I stay indoors.
It never stops snowing.


I have been here a long time now,
and I think of the time
when I can pack my things
and go home.

The night grows colder.
I wish I could go home
in winter, just the way it was
when I left.


  1. My father, an archeologist, introduced me to many ancient Asian artifacts. Among these antiquities was a semi-glazed Chinese ceramic vessel, which at one time used to hold alcoholic spirits. Somewhat uniquely, this bottle was inscribed with three poems.

    Experts provided a literal translation. While the first verse is a fair representation of the original, I have taken slight liberties with my interpretation, colored by my imagining of what the general may have really wanted to say.

  2. I like this translation, there is much subtlety and the every day flavor

  3. Anonymous8:48:00 AM

    I think it's gorgeous!

  4. Your translation works for me as well. It's great how poetry crosses over to other dimensions and captures our heart. Have a wonderful day.

  5. Short link -

  6. I like the way time collapses. One can empathise with the human conditions of fear, hope, home sickness, appreciation for nature.


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