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  • Julia Min

东坡八首(第八首)Eight Poems on my Farm, the East Slope (8)



原作: 苏轼(字子瞻, 号东坡居士; 11世纪北宋)

英译: 闵晓红(2024.05)








Eight Poems on my Farm, the East Slope (8)

(Our second year in Huangzhou often saw us starving due to a gradual lack of food. My friend Ma Zhengqing made huge efforts in negotiating with the local officers for a piece of the local military land. It’s about 10 acres deserted for a long time being infertile and rocky. We worked very hard to clear the rubble, the thistles and thorns before planting anything. But then there was a dry spell followed, threatening our crop yields. And now  comes the long-waited rain, thus I write these 8 poems in appreciation of our team work, hoping all the hard work to be paid off in the coming years. By then we can be totally relieved of such arduous toil.)

Chinese original: Su Shi (11th AC, social name 'Zizhan', art name 'Dongpo')

English translation: Julia Min (Apr. 2024)


Mr Ma is my friend, a poor scholar,         

And a follower of mine for twenty years.

Sincere is his wish for my luck of fortunes,

And for a share to buy land when he retires.

He’s now stuck in my bad luck, like others,

Working his socks off like a local farmer.

It’s like trying to make warm wear for winter

By scraping the shell of a turtle for the fur.

Yet I remain a man of values in his mind,

And no one could ever change his judgment.

Very little have I offered him all these years,

But the drop is paid with a spring in return.


Of all the followers, Mr Ma was a most valuable one as he physically followed Su Shi for 34 long years, rain or shine. Su Shi, during this hard times, felt heavily in debt towards such a loyal friend and made some special strokes or you may say ‘eternal lines’ in his poetry collection. This reminds me of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 – “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”


Yet the tears were running inward for a man like Su Shi. The teasing tone in the first part is used to cover the hidden tears. He knows how lucky he was to have such a valuable friend. So the last few lines show his appreciation and indebted gratitude.


1. Picture from (海曲上人)


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