The Martial Emperor’s Dream Of Expansion Has No End

the martial emperor's dream of expansion
Cavalry of the Tang Dynasty

Scholars say the poem “Song of the Wagons” was written by Du Fu (712-770) in 750 or 751. This was a few years before the start of the An Lushan Rebellion. This is one of the earliest surviving poems of Du Fu. Here is the poem in Chinese (simplified):

兵车行

车辚辚
马萧萧
行人弓箭各在腰
耶娘妻子走相送
尘埃不见咸阳桥
牵衣顿足阑道哭
哭声直上干云霄
道傍过者问行人
行人但云点行频
或从十五北防河
便至四十西营田
去时里正与裹头
归来头白还戍边
边亭流血成海水
武皇开边意未已
君不闻汉家山东二百州
千村万落生荆杞
纵有健妇把锄犁
禾生陇亩无东西
况复秦兵耐苦战
被驱不异犬与鸡
长者虽有问
役夫敢申恨
且如今年冬
未休关西卒
县官急索租
租税从何出
信知生男恶
反是生女好
生女犹得嫁比邻
生男埋没随百草
君不见青海头
古来白骨无人收
新鬼烦冤旧鬼哭
天阴雨湿声啾啾

The martial emperor’s dream of expansion has no end

This poem has been translated into English by a number of scholars. The earliest translation I know of was in 1967 by David Hawkes. I don’t know who made this particular translation.

The wagons rumble and roll,
The horses whinny and neigh,
The conscripts each have bows and arrows at their waists.
Their parents, wives and children run to see them off,
So much dust’s stirred up, it hides the Xianyang bridge.
They pull clothes, stamp their feet and, weeping, bar the way,
The weeping voices rise straight up and strike the clouds.
A passer-by at the roadside asks a conscript why,
The conscript answers only that drafting happens often.
“At fifteen, many were sent north to guard the river,
Even at forty, they had to till fields in the west.
When we went away, the elders bound our heads,
Returning with heads white, we’re sent back off to the frontier.
At the border posts, shed blood becomes a sea,
The martial emperor’s dream of expansion has no end.
Have you not seen the two hundred districts east of the mountains,
Where thorns and brambles grow in countless villages and hamlets?
Although there are strong women to grasp the hoe and the plough,
They grow some crops, but there’s no order in the fields.
What’s more, we soldiers of Qin withstand the bitterest fighting,
We’re always driven onwards just like dogs and chickens.
Although an elder can ask me this,
How can a soldier dare to complain?
Even in this winter time,
Soldiers from west of the pass keep moving.
The magistrate is eager for taxes,
But how can we afford to pay?
We know now having boys is bad,
While having girls is for the best;
Our girls can still be married to the neighbors,
Our sons are merely buried amid the grass.
Have you not seen on the border of Qinghai,
The ancient bleached bones no man’s gathered in?
The new ghosts are angered by injustice, the old ghosts weep,
Moistening rain falls from dark heaven on the voices’ screeching.”

the martial emperor's dream of expansion
Step 219 of Steps to Knowledge, the book of spiritual practice of the New Message from God.

Every human being must speak out against war. It is never justified. It is errors compounded. It is failure compounded. War degrades humanity’s ability to navigate an increasingly difficult world. War discourages humanity from believing it can rise and unite to become a strong race, which it must. The martial emperor’s dream of expansion has no end? Humanity must awaken.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

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