Asking the Heavens by Qu Yuan
When all was void and everything began,
Who lived to pass the story down to Man?
When all but formless were the skies and earth,
How were they measured and what is their girth?
So blurry is the line 'twixt night and day;
When does one start and end? So hard to say.
Why is it so that darkness falls at night,
But when the morning comes it brings us light?
Out of the ying and yang all things have swarmed,
But which are genuine and which transformed?
Of many a layer is made the roof divine,
Who’s counted them to know that there are nine?
What tools were used? What means to cut its frame?
And who accomplished that? What was his name?
The handle of the Dipper’s broken. Why?
Where is the topmost summit of the sky?
Where stand the pillars that support it all?
Why is it that the south-east regions fall?
The eight directions and the central point
Where do they meet? Where is the blurry joint?
This world is full of many a winding place,
Their number, though, unknown to human race.
Where do the skies converge with the earth below?
Whence know the hours their time to come and go?
How comes that Sun and Moon do climb up high?
How were the stars dispersed upon the sky?
Out of the Rising Valley up He sores
To finally rest upon the Lifeless Shores,
From break of day till night outspreads its veil
How many miles are there for Him to sail?
Where from the vital virtue of the Moon
That She may die and be reborn so soon?
And what’s the use of her? I cannot guess.
What rabbit does She in her arms caress?
Though Nüqi never married anyone
Nine sons were born of her. How was it done?
Where has the God of Wind set up his lair?
Where do reside the gusts of freezing air?
What Door is shut that darkness falls at night,
What Door is opened that all again is bright.
When dark the skies upon the eastern side,
Where does the daylight-bringing Sun abide?
He was no man the deadly floods to trim,
Why then the squadrons had elected him?
All people said: why should we bare those ills?
If grasped, they can be added to our skills.
When sluggish hawks their bodies dragged away
Why did Sir Gun so easily obey?
While he was at the things the King desired,
Why was he punished so and promptly fired?
Imprisoned on the Feather Mountain leas
All life in vain awaited his release.
Out of his stomach Yü the Great sprang out.
A splendid change! How did this come about?
When Yü took up the work by Father ceded,
He put much effort to it and succeeded.
Resuming his ancestor’s noble task
What other way he chose to go? I ask.
Preponderant flood waters are and deep,
What has he done to put them back to sleep?
Upon what standard, who can understand,
Into nine grades he classified the land?
How did the Dragon’s tail cut soil apart?
Now where do all the flowing rivers start?
What was accomplished by Sir Gun before
And what his son should be remembered for?
Why did Kanghui in a sudden wrath
Smashed down the mountain standing in his path,
And since that day, though passed long time ago,
The south-east parts are as if bending low.
How did the Nine Continents come about?
How was the river valleys carvèd out?
Who knows the reason why the eastern cup
Though filled with water never is filled up?
From east to west from south to north how wide
Can be this world of ours on every side?
From south to north, they say, it’s an ellipse,
What is the length between its sides and tips?
The hanging gardens and their splendid fountains,
Where are they set up on the Kunlun mountains?
Zengcheng, the city of nine stories there
How high it elevates itself into the air?
By walls surrounded, shut off by four doors,
What hosts they welcome and what visitors?
When open is the door on the north-west
What gust of wind awakens from its rest?
In lands where Sun shines not, is there no light?
Or Polar Dragons there illume the night?
Yihe, the driver of the Sun divine,
Has not yet cracked his whip: why do all things shine?
In wintertime where is the air so warm?
In summertime where is the snowy storm?
Where is the forest that has grown from rock.
Where are the fairy beasts that speak and talk.
And Qiu, the famous hornless dragon? Where?
Gone, carrying on his back a brownish bear?
Xionghui with his nine heads in all
Where is he gone, the hasty animal?
Where are the lands where people do not die?
Where are the giants that can touch the sky?
Where is the magic duckweed with nine flowers?
Where are the twining hemp embellished bowers?
The snake that swallows elephants, who knows
How big it is and how much bigger grows?
Where is Blackwater, the immortals’ creek?
Where is the holy Sanwei Mountain’s peak?
A sage that had achieved longevity,
What day was the last of his, how long lived he?
Where are the lakes and seas where mermaidsdwell?
Where is the legendary griffin’s dell?
And where did Yi, the archer, shoot the suns down dead?
And where’s the place where Wu, the Crow, his feathers shed?
When Yü the Great performed his masterstroke
He stooped to work among the common folk;
Where did he find the Tushan girl that did him please
And married him among mulberry trees?
All his affection, marriage that she’d won
Was but for bearing him a legal son;
While they of different manners were and race,
What happiness they sought in love’s embrace?
Sir Yi by Yü’s son Qi was overthrown;
Disaster spread when he usurped the throne.
How come that he was finally seized that day,
And stranger still: how did he run away?
He gave them all his weapons: bow and quiver,
His body though he safely managed to deliver.
The memory of Yi did not survive,
Why then the Yüs predestined were to thrive?
Three maids did Qi to Heavenly Lord present
Nine Songs and Nine Disputes the Heavens sent.
And why did Qi, at birth, his mother kill?
Her body fragments on the soil lay still.
And Yi, by God, was sent among wild men
To end the turmoil and make peace again.
Hebo, the Yellow River’s god bereft of life:
Why did Yi killed him there, and took his wife?
When Yi had stretched his richly ornamented bow,
Enormous boars were slain with but one blow.
The fattest of the meats to Heaven he sent
But God was never with his gifts content.
Han Zhuo, his minister, schemed with Chun Hu:
His gorgeous wife did plot against him too.
How he whose arrows cut thought armor’s hide
By such two schemers was outdone and died?
When they expelled him to the far-off west
How did he cross the mountains on this quest?
When he had changed into a brownish bear
How did the fairies bring him round up there?
By growing millet and uprooting reed,
He taught the people how to till and weed.
Why did Sir Gun meet such a sorry fate?
Was he so crude? Was his offense so great?
Why, changed into a rainbow, did he roam
Above this castle there, his sometime home?
And where did he the magic pill procure
But could not hide in any place secure?
No exceptions Nature makes for anyone:
When spirits leave the body, life is gone.
How come that he had changed into a crow?
Where is his body, where? I do not know.
Why when the king of Wu attacked our land,
Our armies fought with his but could not stand?
Why had he met his lover on the holy spot,
And in adultery Ziwen begot?
I always said that Du'ao’s reign will not be long
Why then Xiongyun had killed him and usurped the throne.
Was it for the glory of his name alone?
Przekład: Jarek Zawadzki