Lu Hsün: Ballads among bushes of bayonets, hungry dove amid crumbling walls
Lu Hsün/Lu Xun
For a forgotten memory (1931)
Translated by Jerome Ch’en and Michael Bullock
A habit now, to spend spring in this eternal night,
In exile, with wife, child and greying temples.
In dreams, I dimly see my mother’s tears,
On battlements, ever-changing, lords’ banners.
With sorrow, I watch friends become new ghosts;
In anger, I look for ballads among the bushes of bayonets.
Then I lower my eyes and find nowhere to write
Save, on my black robe, in bright moonlight.
Translated by Jon Kowallis
Dashing thunder and flying flame
leave mortal men slain.
‘Mid crumbling walls and caved-in wells
a hungry dove remains.
By chance he meets a kindly heart
and leaves the fiery dwelling.
In old Nippon a lofty tomb
commemorates our starveling.
Were he to wake as though from dream,
the dove’s shade would carry pebbles,
and stand with comrades resolute -
‘gainst tide and flood as rebels.
We brothers will yet see the day
when stormy surges all abate.
On reuniting, with one smile,
we’ll wash away the hate.
Postscript by Lu Xun on this 21st of June 1933: Dr. Nishimura found a homeless dove after the fighting in Shanghai, which he then took back with him to Japan to raise. At first it got on well but later passed away, so a stupa was erected in which to bury the dove. Asked to supply a verse for the stupa, I scratched out this poem for my friend from afar.