Tea Mountain

By Yuan Gao

I’ve come to survey Islet Springs,
So that I’m able to gain a personal understanding of tea affairs;
The peasants have abandoned their plowing and hoeing,
And gone off to the truly bitter labor of tea-picking.

Once a man is taken for corvée duty,
His entire household is affected;
They grasp vines, pulling themselves up the slanting cliffs,
Hair disheveled, they enter wild brambles.

The whole morning long they barely pick a handful,
Yet their hands and feet and covered with sores.
Sad laments echo through the empty hills,
Even for the grasses and trees there’s no springtime.