David Lewis Paget
Dragons - Poem by David Lewis Paget
In the year of the Jade Emperor,
In the time of the people’s pain,
The sun was hot, the people groaned
The sky gave up no rain;
‘The sky gave up no rain, ’ he said,
‘The ground was dry as a bone,
There were no rivers or lakes to feed
The crops that the people owned.
The rice lay waste in the paddy fields,
The people ate bark and clay,
While on the shores of the Eastern Sea
Four dragons laughed and played.’
‘These creatures, made of snake and claw,
Of horn, and fire and scale,
Looked down to see the people pray,
To hear the people wail,
So Black, and Yellow, Long and Pearl,
For these were the dragons’ names,
Felt sad for the people’s plight, and said,
“We must bring on the rain! ”
Without the rain, the people die,
They are so poor and thin,
We needs must enter at Heaven’s Gate
So He will intervene! ’
‘They flew to the Jade Emperor
Who promised to send them rain,
But then sat back with his minstrel songs,
Forgot the people’s pain.
For ten long days the dragons paused
To wait the darkening clouds,
But only saw the people cry,
Lay out their dead in shrouds.
They laid their dead in shrouds, ’ he said,
‘The lastborn to the first,
The dragons said, “He heeds us not,
Won’t slake the people’s thirst.”’
‘The dragons flew to the Eastern Sea,
They knew it would bring them pain,
But to ease the hurt of the brown, dead earth
What else, but the soothing rain?
Now, dragons’ care for man’s despair,
His hopes, his joys, his tears,
They send their many blessings down,
Relieve the people’s fears.
They flew on out to the Eastern Sea
Its waters so clear and deep,
They flung it up to the heavens high
That what they’d sow, they’d reap.’
Then down it came in a storm of rain
That fed the people’s joy,
They laughed aloud at this water cloud
That the dragons had employed.
The moment the Jade Emperor
By the Sea God was informed,
He stamped and raged, and bellowed loud
That he would not be scorned!
He called his Generals and his troops,
To make the dragons’ answer,
Then called the Mountain God to him
To lie on them forever!
Caught fast beneath a mountain each
The dragons still were glad,
They’d saved the people from their pain,
The price they paid was sad;
But not unbearable, they thought,
So Long, and Black and Yellow,
With Pearl, devised another plan
That they might ever follow.
They turned themselves to rivers wide
To flow across each valley,
From West to East, the Long, the Black,
The Pearl flows, and the Yellow.
Four dragons’ that once cared for man,
Four dragons’ spread their tails,
They fed the crops that man might eat,
Might sing or dance, not wail;
The Heilongjiang is River Black,
The Dragon of the north,
And south of him, the Huanghe flows,
The Yellow Dragon’s course;
The Yangtze is the Dragon Long,
The Changjiang, to the mouth,
While Pearl is now the Zhujiang,
The Dragon of the south.
23 December 2005
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