Between Two Rivers

Between two rivers

月既不解飲 (The moon, alas, is no drinker of wine)
月下獨酌 (Drinking Alone by Moonlight)

Li Bai

Take these plains where truculent wind
With unstinting devotion makes leaves of grass quarrel
Not for a lawless country.

Gods have searched us out
And knew our needs before we asked, knew callowness
And gave us fledglings what we would not ask for.

Who wakes you burning with wild desire,
Whose laws forbid spilling semen,
Mahore is the God of love and birth, feared above all
By soldiers growing lonely in remote outposts.

Anu, the Lord of Constellations, rules for himself,
Dwells beyond eyes’ reach, makes no oath.
No footstep is ever made without him knowing.

Ki, who under a heavy veil
Hides her blinding beauty,
Leads the timid way
Into silence and oblivion.
She is the mother of all wanderers,
Creatures mesmerised by the joy
Of fleeting fellowship, forever dancing
Around trivial campfires,
Never to enjoy a homely hearth.

Marduk rules over Two Rivers
Heeding but the God of Justice. Should
You disobey, the punishment will be most severe –
Your face would look like someone else’s face,
And you would be chastised for someone else’s sins.
Water–and-spice dragon at his side
With its poisonous breath binds us
To this merciful land.

Who stole the tablets of destiny finds now pleasure
In sending us incurable diseases. He has our children
Lose their way home, plants buns in the ovens
Too young to care. He is Zu and his path
Is marked by weeping silenced under his wings.

Hail our emperors, our immutable walls.
Who heal no wounds, feel no pain,
Have their needs fulfilled to their delight.

Give ear. Every sunrise is a saying
That living Gods speak.
Their complete harmony spells that we,
Of all times and all places, are one.

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