Resources for Loss

"Lament of the Frontier Guard" by Ezra Pound, contributed by Malcolm Nelson (TF, 2021)

The poem “Lament of the Frontier Guard” is an adaptation from a Chinese original which Ezra Pound composed during the early years of the First World War despite his lack of knowledge of Chinese. The end result is a beautiful poem which speaks to the universality of the bleakness of garrison life and the barbarity of warfare. Part of what makes it so moving for me is the evocation of a (for Pound and me) unfamiliar setting while also expressing recognizable emotions. 

Lament of the Frontier Guard
By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand,
Lonely from the beginning of time until now!
Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.
I climb the towers and towers
       to watch out the barbarous land:
Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert.
There is no wall left to this village.
Bones white with a thousand frosts,
High heaps, covered with trees and grass;
Who brought this to pass?
Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?
Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?
Barbarous kings.
A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,
A turmoil of wars-men, spread over the middle kingdom,
Three hundred and sixty thousand,
And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning,
Desolate, desolate fields,
And no children of warfare upon them,
       No longer the men for offence and defence.
Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate,
With Rihoku's* name forgotten,
And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.

By Rihaku or Li Po 

Note: This article on the poem from The Atlantic also includes three readings.

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