|Ride Six Dragons
||[Dec. 11th, 2012|09:44 pm]
Eight Skilled Gentlemen, Hughart's character Master Li saysI've always liked this poem by either Li Bai (Li Po) or Barry Hughart, depending on how you slice it. In his novel |
Do you know Li Po's 'Short Song'?
'Earth too big
Sky too far
Ride six dragons
Around North Star
Crazy dragons stinking drunk
Searching for actual translations, I came across one by James R. Murphy and another by the blogger Akt. Hughart's 18-word version is much shorter than the 70-character original, whose title is translated by both my sources as 'Song of Brevity' -- more a lament for the shortness of life than the giddy carousing of Hughart's version. The six dragons pull the chariot of the Sun, much like Helio's chariot in Greek mythology.
Here's a version about the length of Li Bai's, and shorter than my sources' versions. Except for the Sun-dragons I've used Greek instead of Chinese myth: the Lady of Hemp becomes Helen of Troy and the God of Heaven joking with the Jade Lady becomes Baubo joking with Demeter.
A century fills up fast.
Infinite blue sky, eons
And eons come to -- just this.
Fair Helen's locks
are long since gray.
It's been a billion laughs
Since Baubo lifted skirts for Demeter.
O let me grab the Sun-carriage reins,
Tie six dragons to the dawn,
Grab the Big Dipper
And serve them each ten gallons of wine!
You can keep the money and fame:
I just want to stop the Sun.