Eighteen Refrains on Tartar Pipes 10, 11, 12 Cai Yan [Cai Wenji] (ca. 177-?)
Tr. YK Chan 陈耀国译
Beacons on the Great Wall are ne’er out at ease,
Will fights on the battlefield ever cease?
Day after day killing rampages through the frontier gates,
Night after night gusts whip along moonlit border in haste.
Isolated from homeland news can’t be heard,
Muted sobs of frustration are swallowed and unheard.
A hard life since my separation from those I love,
At sad tenth refrain my tears turn fast into blood.
I loathe dying not because I wish to long live,
For good reasons I don’t take my own life.
Living, so one day to my homeland I’ll return,
If dead, and my bones buried that’s just not a concern.
Day in day out staying in war camp what I’ve done;
Tartar spoils me as I bore him two sons.
Them I nurture without dishonour,
‘Tis a pity they’re brought up off the border.
So it starts for the eleventh refrain,
My grief lingers deep inside unrestrained.
Vernal breezes harmonize in a warming trend,
By virtue of the Han emperor’s grace it tends.
Southern Huns celebrate by song and dance,
For the two nations reconcile and lay down their arms.
Han emissary suddenly brings forth the emperor’s mission,
That’s to send handsome monies for my repatriation.
Joyful of survival and meeting the virtuous son of heaven,
But regrets to leaving young sons without good reason.
At twelfth refrain grief and joy made even,
My mixed emotions are difficult for entailment.