Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 4. CHINA, A.D. 1900, by EDWARD CARPENTER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 4. CHINA, A.D. 1900, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Far in the interior of china
Last Line: And oddly enough has no intention of returning to those times.
Subject(s): China

FAR in the interior of China,
Along low-lying plains and great river-valleys, and by lake-sides, and far
away up into hilly and even mountainous regions,
Behold! an immense population, rooted in the land, rooted in the clan and
the family,
The most productive and stable on the whole Earth.
A garden one might say—a land of rich and recherché crops, of
rice and tea and silk and sugar and cotton and oranges;
Do you see it?—stretching away endlessly over river-lines and lakes,
and the gentle undulations of the lowlands, and up the escarpments of the higher
The innumerable patchwork of cultivation—the poignant verdure of the
young rice; the sombre green of orange groves; the lines of tea-shrubs,
well-hoed, and showing the bare earth beneath; the pollard mulberries; the plots
of cotton and maize and wheat and yam and clover;
The little brown and green-tiled cottages with spreading recurved eaves,
the clumps of feathery bamboo, or of sugar-canes;
The endless silver threads of irrigation-canals and ditches, skirting the
hills for scores and hundreds of miles, tier above tier, and serpentining down
to the lower slopes and plains—
The accumulated result, these, of centuries of ingenious industry, and of
innumerable public and private benefactions, continued from age to age;
The grand canal of the Delta-plain extending, a thronged waterway, for six
hundred miles, with sails of junks and bank-side villages innumerable;
The chain-pumps, worked by buffaloes or men, for throwing the water up
slopes and hillsides, from tier to tier, from channel to channel;
The endless rills and cascades flowing down again, into pockets and hollows
of verdure, and on fields of steep and plain:
The bits of rock and wild wood left here and there, with the angles of
Buddhist temples projecting from among the trees;
The azalea and rhododendron bushes, and the wild deer and pheasants
The sounds of music and the gong—the Sin-fa sung at eventide—and
the air of contentment and peace pervading;
A garden you might call the land, for its wealth of crops and flowers,
A town almost for its population.

A population denser, on a large scale, than anywhere else on the
Five or six acre holdings, elbowing each other, with lesser and larger,
continuously over immense tracts, and running to plentiful market-centres;
A country of few roads, but of innumerable footpaths and waterways.

Here, rooted in the land, rooted in the family,

Each family clinging to its portion of ancestral earth, each offshoot of
the family desiring nothing so much as to secure its own patrimonial field,
Each member of the family answerable primarily to the family-assembly for
his misdeeds or defalcations,
All bound together in the common worship of ancestors, and in reverence for
the past and its sanctioned beliefs and accumulated prejudices and
With many ancient wise simple customs and ordinances. coming down from
remote centuries, and the time of Confucius,
This vast population abides—the most stable and the most productive in
the world.

And Government touches it but lightly—can touch it but lightly.
With its few officials, its scanty taxation (about half-a-crown per head),
and with the extensive administration of justice and affairs by the clan and the
family—little scope is left for Government.
The great equalized mass-population pursues its even and accustomed way,
nor pays attention to edicts and foreign treaties, unless these commend
themselves independently;
Pays readier respect, in such matters, to the edicts and utterances of its
literary men, and the deliberations of the Academy.

And religious theorizing touches it but lightly—can touch it but
Established on the bedrock of actual life, and on the living unity and
community of present, past, and future generations,
Each man stands bound already, and by the most powerful ties, to the social
body—nor needs the dreams and promises of heaven to reassure him.
And all are bound to the Earth.
Rendering back to it as a sacred duty every atom that the Earth supplies to
them (not insensately sending it in sewers to the sea),
By the way of abject common sense they have sought the gates of
Paradise—and to found on human soil their City Celestial!

And this is an outline of the nation which the Western nations would fain
remodel on their own lines—
The pyramids standing on their own apexes wanting to overturn the pyramid
which rests foursquare on its base!
But China remembers too well the time when it too endured the absurdities
of monopolized Land and Capital, of private property in water and other
necessaries, of glaring wealth and poverty, and the practical enslavement of one
man by another;
It remembers even yet the discomfort of standing on its own apex,
And oddly enough has no intention of returning to those times.

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