The Dragon of the Black Pool

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Deep the waters of the Black Pool, colored like ink;

They say a Holy Dragon lives there, whom men have never seen.

Beside the Pool they have built a shrine; the authorities

have established a ritual;

A dragon by itself remains a dragon, but men can make it a god.

Prosperity and disaster, rain and drought, plagues and pestilences—

By the village people were all regarded as the Sacred Dragon’s doing.

They all made offerings of sucking-pig and poured libations of wine;

The morning prayers and evening gifts depended on a “medium’s” advice.

When the dragon comes, ah!

The wind stirs and sighs

Paper money thrown, ah!

Silk umbrellas waved.

When the dragon goes, ah!

The wind also—still.

Incense-fire dies, ah !

The cups and vessels are cold.

Meats lie stacked on the rocks of the Pool’s shore;

Wine flows on the grass in front of the shrine.

I do not know, of all those offerings, how much the Dragon eats;

But the mice of the woods and the foxes of the hills are continually drunk and sated.

Why are the foxes so lucky?

What have the sucking-pigs done,

That year by year they should be killed, merely to glut the foxes?

That the foxes are robbing the Sacred Dragon and eating His sucking-pig,

Beneath the nine-fold depths of His pool, does He know or not? 

© Bai Juyi