Sunday 4 March 2012

A Thousand Year Old Chinese Poem

While working in prison I met an elegant Chinese girl whose English was excellent and who at that time was working her way through Jane Austen. Her name was Xiaocsia He - first name pronounced  Shargia. She did some great work with me, including a short story which was read on th4 BBC and the beginning of a very ambitious novel set in China. One day she brought me a page of Chinese letters. She said it was a thousand year old Chinese poem and could we work on it as you couldn't do it word for word, you had to proceed concept by concept. So we worked together to render it into elegant English. Here it is,,,

We are parting
at the time when the leaves
are withered and keep on falling

The cutting winds of autumn
batter my heart,
bringing sorrow to every part
of my mind and my body
making me die inside.

Now, all I have to cherish
are our bygone times, our old days.
Oh! In what time of our lives
in what part of the world
could you and I ever meet again?

Collaborative Tanslation: Xiaocsia He & Wendy Robertson

This is a very poignant poem, considering her situation. Xiaocsia is back in China now, no doubt making her way in a better life.


  1. It'a a beautiful poem Wendy, and a very poignant story. Like you, I hope Xiaocsia is making a better life in China, and I hope writing some great things!

  2. It was great to have known her.w

  3. What a beautiful poem. A truly successful collaboration which does not feel like a translation at all. I am sure it will speak to anyone who is experiencing grief.



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