Farewell to a Comrade

BY CHEN KIA-CHOW

T'ang Dynasty

Cold gusts from Arctic regions sweep the ground,
And snowflakes countless fly through the wintry sky,
Covering with spotless robe the earth around,
While snow flowers frail on twigs and branches lie.
As when a genial breeze in early Spring
Shakes open all the pear-trees' blossoms white,
And sombre-looking trees with leafless boughs
Are decked with radiance in a single night.
Through crevices and slits in bamboo blinds,
Which shield the entrance to our hempen tent,
Snow-whirls and keen winds blow and chill the blood,
In spite of furs and wadded garments blent.
Cold so intense is felt by all alike—
The General cannot stretch his horn-tipped bow,
In coats of mail the Captains stiffly move,
While soldiers growl or mutter curses low.
Far off the desert stretches as a sea,
In frozen ridges like to driven clouds,
Alas, the multitudes of warriors brave
The pathless waste of cruel sand enshrouds!
But now our happy comrade homeward turns,
We'll drink his health to sound of viol and flute,
And see him safely on his journey start;
Another cup, and then the old salute!
Falls thick the snow around the fortress walls,
The red flag frozen stirs not in the air,
As forth we ride from out the Eastern gate,—
In jostling groups, or quietly pair by pair.
Nearing the Tien-shan road we draw in rein,
To bid our comrade there a last farewell,
And watch him upward climb the mountain path
To peaks that touch the clouds where genii dwell.
But soon the winding path conceals from view
The fading horsemen as they upward wend;
All we now see are footprints in the snow,
As 'ih-lu fuh-sing' we towards them send.