Exclusive poetry: Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again

Punting on the Cam

To celebrate the New Year, read exclusive new poetry by last year's Visiting Fellow, renowned American poet and translator, Geoffrey Brock.

Punting on the Cam

Geoffrey joined Wolfson under the Arkansas Fulbright College Visiting Fellowship, which has been running since 1988.

Geoffrey hosted Wolfson’s World Poetry Evening in the spring, when College members joined together to celebrate poetry and read their favourite poems.

During that evening, discussion turned to a well-known poem about Cambridge by Chinese poet, Xu Zhimo: a poem that is often reproduced on souvenir tea towels for tourists to buy when visiting the city today. Visiting Research Associate, Yuchao Zhang, suggested the need for a refreshed English translation - and Geoffrey took up the challenge.

Originally written in 1928, here is Geoffrey Brock’s new English version of Zaibie Kangqiao, written as he came to the end of his time at Wolfson in 2022:  

Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again

I’ll leave as quiet as I came,

quietly waving goodbye

to the quiet evening clouds

hung in the western sky.


Golden willows by the river

are brides in the setting sun;

they glitter on the shining water,

and shall in my heart shine on.


Those lily pads are rooted in mud,

more rooted than I now am;

oh, to sway in the current there

in the gentle flow of the Cam!


The pool that’s shaded by these elms

is full of not water but sky;

rainbows spangle the duckweed where

a spectrum of visions lie.


Chasing a dream? Pole up the river

where grass is the brightest green;

fill your punt with a haul of starlight

and sing in its radiant sheen.


But as for me, I sing no longer—

silent is the song of my leaving;

the crickets have fallen silent too;

all Cambridge is silent this evening.


I’ll leave as gently as I came,

and gently I’ll wave goodbye,

flicking my wrist as I turn to go,

leaving each cloud in the sky.


Related content

Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again is published in the latest edition of The Wolfson Review, which you can read online now.

And you can read more poems by Geoffrey Brock on the Poetry Foundation website, as well as on Geoffrey's own website.