The marble boats have capsized
On the Lake of Imperial Rectitude.
Examinations for the Celestial Service
Have been postponed.
In the Spice Market the scents are bitter.
The porcelain makers do not work in colour.
Their wares are white,
Undecorated, more fragile.
I have heard of no poems.
The painted fans you ask about
Are not seen.
Children refuse to study the Sages.
Old men are laughed at in the Street of Abundance
While waiting for the rice ration,
Which is now two bowlfuls a week.
Lanterns have been blown down
On the heads of ambassadors.
‘Tribute-bearing ambassadors’, they are called;
But they have the look of merchants
And are dressed in a reprehensible style.
On the Western Border there are victories.
Banners are flown.
The fire-works are of appropriate brilliance.
But certain provinces are no longer named.
Generals come at night
To the Secretariat For Concord With Inferior Peoples,
Snow on their furs.
Afterwards the faces of high personages alter.
Palanquins are in readiness.
I have been told of secret shipments to the South
In the Jade Palace there are likely to be changes.
But for how long, I wonder, must we live
The bray of trumpets scatters the pigeons
From the garden, as I write.
Perhaps it is another victory.
You are fortunate, during this Era of Contentment,
To have a post in the South.