The Dragon and The Poet Written by Kenji Miyazawa
Translated by George Wallace

Chanata the dragon lifted himself up out of the water that poured into his cave as high tide approached. The morning sun shone in through the entrance to the cave, lighting up the uneven surface of the rocks on the sea bottom. Many red and white creatures could be seen, clinging to the rocks.

Chanata gazed sleepily into the blue, slightly murky water. Then he looked out through the cave entrance at the glistening sea, and at the bright yellow ball of fire on the horizon, the seat of the sun god.

"If I were free, I could row far out over the sea. I could fly up into the blue sky and set the black clouds into motion with my torch-like breath.
But I am trapped here. The crack leading from this cave to the sea is just wide enough for me to glimpse what lies beyond. Oh, Holy King of the Dragons, forgive me for my crimes! Free me from your curse!"

With a sad look on his face, Chanata turned his gaze once more to the cave's interior. The sun's rays now fell upon his tail in the water, as it lay there reflecting the light, twinkling blue and white. Suddenly the dragon heard the sound of a young man's voice coming from outside the cave.
He looked to see who it was.

"Most honorable and esteemed Chanata, I have come here today bidden by the morning sun to ask you for your forgiveness."

A well-dressed young man, wearing a necklace and with a long sword at his side, was sitting on some moss-covered stones outside the cave.

"Why are you asking me for forgiveness?"

"Dear dragon, yesterday I took part in a poetry recital competition and everyone overwhelmed me with their praise. Alta, the most famous of all the poets, stepped down from his chair, bowed before me and offered me his seat of honour. He crowned me with awards, singing my praises in a four-verse hymn before retiring into solitude far in the East at the foot of the snowy mountains. I was intoxicated by the beauty of the song I had sung as if I were drunk on wine. I felt numbed by the speeches of praise and the bouquets of flowers that rained down upon me from all sides, engulfing me.
But far into the night, after I had left the house of my rich host and was walking over the glistening dew on the grass on my way home to my poor mother's house, the seat of the moon god was suddenly hidden behind clouds and everything became dark. As I looked up, I could hear a gentle voice coming from the Miruda Wood.

'Young Surdatta stole his song from the old dragon Chanata who is trapped in his cave. Today in the poetry contest Surdatta used this song for his own ends, driving the old poet Alta off into a life of solitude in the East.'

Suddenly my legs began to shake. I couldn't go on any further, even though I wanted to. So I sat there on the grass the whole of last night, my head pounding with confusion. As I sat there thinking things over, I remembered that for days I had been coming to sit on the cliff that overhangs this cave, never realizing that you were here. I have often fallen asleep here, weary from my studies and my singing. I must have heard this song on a windy, overcast day whilst I was taking an afternoon nap. Most honorable Chanata, I will tomorrow scatter ashes upon my head, I will sit down in the great square in the town and beg you and all the people for forgiveness.
Will you, my esteemed teacher, the one who composed this wonderful song, will you be kind enough to forgive me?"

"What kind of hymn was it that the poet Alta sang to praise you, before retiring into solitude in the East?"

"I am so confused by everything that has happened to me that I can no longer remember the wonderful verses, but I think they went something like this :

"No sooner has the wind sung, the clouds echoed and the waves resounded than you sing their song, Surdatta. You are a prophet who envisions a model of truth and beauty for tomorrow's world after which the stars yearn and the land shapes itself and who eventually makes the world become so. You are an architect, Surdatta."

"May the worthy and noble poet Alta find happiness wherever he maybe. Surdatta, that song is yours as well as mine. Did you really believe that you heard that song while you were sitting up there above my cave? Oh, Surdatta!

At that time I was the wind and the clouds. And you were the wind and the clouds, too. The poet Alta would probably have sung the same song if he had meditated then. But, Surdatta, Alta's language would have been different from yours, and yours from mine. And the rhythm would have been different, too. So, that song is yours."

"Oh, Mr Dragon! Does that mean you've forgiven me?"

"Who is supposed to be forgiving whom? We are all, each and every one of us, the wind, the clouds and the water. Surdatta, if I were only able to leave this cave, and if you were not afraid of me, I would so much like to hold you in my arms and comfort you. Here, let me at least give you a little present. Stretch out your hand to me."

The dragon held out a small red pearl which glowed with an inner fire of immense power.

"You must take this pearl with you when you go to the sea to look for the sunken Holy Sutras."

Surdatta kneeled down low to receive the pearl and said to the dragon, "Oh, Mr Dragon, I have wanted this for such a long time! I don't know how to begin to thank you. But why can't such a mighty dragon as yourself leave this rocky cave?"

"Surdatta, a long time ago, many thousands of years ago when I was the ruler of the wind and the clouds, I once wanted to test out my strength and in doing so, I brought great misfortune upon mankind. So the Dragon King banished me to this cave for a hundred thousand years, to guard over the border between the land and the sea. Every day that I spend here, I regret my misdeed and beg the King for forgiveness."

"Mr Dragon, I still have my mother to look after, but once she is reborn and happy in Heaven, I will then go into the sea and search for the Great Sutras. Will you wait here in the cave until that day comes?"

"To a dragon, a thousand human years are no more than ten days."

"Please look after this pearl for me until that day comes. I want to come here every day that I can, to look up at the sky, to gaze into the water and to observe the clouds. And as I do so, I want to talk with you about the creation of a new world."

"And if you do, you will make this old dragon very happy indeed."


"Farewell to you!"

Surdatta walked off over the rocks with a happy heart. Chanata the dragon hid himself deep in the water in the furthest corner of his cave and softly began to recite his prayers of repentance.