Friday, January 31, 2014

Sleeping on Horseback

Happy Year of the Horse!

We had ridden long and were still far from the inn;
My eyes grew dim; for a moment I fell asleep.
Under my right arm the whip still dangled;
In my left hand the reins for an instant slackened.
Suddenly I woke and turned to question my groom.
"We have gone a hundred paces since you fell asleep."
Body and spirit for a while had changed place;
Swift and slow had turned to their contraries.
For these few steps that my horse had carried me
Had taken in my dream countless aeons of time!
True indeed is that saying of Wise Men
"A hundred years are but a moment of sleep."


— Bai Juyi


Did you know that it is customary in China to post poetry and something red on and around the doorframe to a house?

In essence poetry keeps the mythical monster Nian at bay — Nian being Chinese for year. We've taken care of the poetry, the red is up to you!

Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse in the 12-year-cycle of the Chinese Zodiac that began more than 4600 years ago. Unlike western New Year's Eve, the Chinese New Year lasts 15 days and culminates — this year — with the Lantern Festival on the 15th of February.

The happy-go-lucky Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi (772–846) — the author of Sleeping on Horseback — is survived today through his more than 2,800 poems written and recorded during his lifetime. Bai Juyi's work became accessible to western audiences in the mid 20th century through the tireless translation of Arthur Waley.

Sleeping on Horseback was translated into English by Waley in 1941's Translations from the Chinese.