mjj (flemmings) wrote,

'Every single angel is terrifying'

Kenneth Rexroth is generally not my man. Chinese or Japanese, his verse translations don't do much for me. But cruising the train lines that leave Shinjuku Stn (FFLs, I mean) gets me this gem, which I include below.

The logical positivist,
The savage with an alarm clock,
"It seems to me that human
Spiritual evolution
Progresses from a maximum
To a minimum of
Imagination. It seems
That the pattern of history
Leads man from fantasy to
Reason, from a mythical
To a logical condition.
Perhaps progress consists in
Getting rid of that over-
Whelming power of fantasy
Which seems to dominate children
And primative peoples."

The greatest dragon painter
Who ever lived was Ssu-Ma
Tsien. Awesome, terrifying,
His dragons left spectators
Weak and giddy for hours.
When they were shown to the Son
Of Heaven, he had to take
To his bed and thunderstorms
Drenched the Five Regions. The real
Dragons were very flattered.
The Dragon Court decided
That in fact they weren't quite so
Frightening; and as a mark
Of favor the Dragon King
Appeared before Ssu-Ma Tsien
As a model for future
Dragons. The painter became
Unconscious with terror and
Never again was able to
Paint dragons because of his
Continuous shuddering.

Which raises the question, can you conflate angels and Chinese dragons?

ETA: err actually Ssu-Ma Tsien/ Sima Qian was the great historian (and yet another instance of the generally admired Han Wudi being somewhat less than admirable.) Not that that would stop him from being a painter as well, but still.
Tags: china, dragons, history, verse

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