Translated by Tanya Wolfson ©
The nation goes about its life: its scoundrels thirst for glory,
Its prophets lie, its poets drink, its nobles reach and grasp.
The Year of the Snake is in full swing, and venomous and leery
Its subjects strain to trick and train their souls to be like asps.
And I sit in a seaport pub,
Two coppers left to pay for grub,
Crumbs of tobacco on my lip, spellbound by a chanson.
In it my fear, my hope, my tryst,
My promised land in swirls of mist,
My way, the one I haven't found and haven't made my own..
If only in my life I find that way
Someday, oh Lord, someday, someday...
Like you, my friends, I find these constant fights too much to swallow,
And the sight of fangs and slavering jaws is making me upset.
The Year of the Snake will soon wind down, the Year of the Dog will follow,
With all the savage turf wars, barks and bites such years beget.
Why is it always rage and fear?
Why, this is just that sort of year.
But though I try to tune my anger to the highest pitch,
For reasons quite beyond my ken,
You all love me, down to a man,
And for reasons equally unknown I love you all so much!
If only I could thank, before I'm done
Someone, oh Lord, someone, someone..
Now I am not your son, nor kin, nor stepchild, just an idle gaper,
And yet I've not the strength to push the pub door and begone.
Dog years turn me into a whelp, Snake years - into a viper,
And I have learned so well to seek compassion in no one.
The singer stopped. End of chanson.
Don't trust my I.O.U., garcon.
Everyone leaves. I too should let sleeping dogs lie, and leave.
Through brawls and howls, riots and raves,
Through gore of wars, by will of waves,
Across life's seas, along world's shores, my tracks are yet to weave...
If only I could do, before I'm dead
Some deed of worth, oh Lord, some deed...