The Poet-Beggar

BY TAO TSIEN

T'sin Dynasty (a.d. 265-419)

Impelled by hunger, forth I strode,
But whither causing little care,
While feeling life's oppressive load—
Too great for me to bear.
At last your village here I reached,
By tramping many weary miles,
And knocking at an unknown door,
You welcomed me with smiles.
And when I roughly asked for food,
Gave meat and wine my need to sate,
And in a kind and friendly mood
You chatted while I ate.
Now having shared your generous cheer,
And drained the oft refillèd glass,
Revived and glad, unthanked I fear
To let such goodness pass.
A linen-bleacher, poor and old,
Fed Han-Sin, sprung of royal breed,
From out her hard-earned scanty store
In time of darkest need.
Your kindly help to me this hour
Is fraught with equal love and grace,
Would I had Han-Sin's royal power,
Thy bounty to replace.
Alas! the fullness of my heart
My tongue can only lamely tell,
So now in simple verse I write
Of kindness done so well.
And though at last the muffled drum
Will beat the end of earthly days,
Throughout the cycles yet to come
My verse shall speak your praise.