Bian Zhilin: Air Force Fighters (From Chinese)

Written some time between 1937 and 1940.

Air Force Fighters
Biàn Zhīlín
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

With lightning and with thunder
Defend the skies of light
Defend the clouds of white
Dark smudges come to plunder

Falcons of liberty
Linked earthward from the skies

To keep our country clear
You have sharp eyes

Lighter than feathers you fly
Weightier than Mount Tai

Freely in your duty and deadly arts

Immortals of the sky
Who in five minutes die
In a hundred million worrying hearts



L9-10: The first two lines (which literally read "lighter than a wildgoose feather, heavier than Mt. Tai"), both proverbial idioms in Chinese, are an allusion to a passage from the famous Letter to Ren An by the Han dynasty historian Sīmǎ Qiān. The passage reads: a man may die but once, and whether death is to him as weighty as Mount Tai, or light as a goosefeather, depends on why he dies and what for. The most important thing is not to disgrace one's ancestors.

L11: literally "free and easy (carefree) within your responsibility." The "free and easy" is a callback to a chapter of Zhuangzi.

The Original:

空軍戰士   Kōngjūn Zhànjī
卞之琳    Biàn Zhīlín

 Yào bǎowèi lántiān,
要保衛白雲, yào bǎowèi báiyún,
不讓打污印, bù ràng dǎ wū yìn,
靠你們雷電。 kào nǐmen léidiàn.

 Yǔ dàdì xiānglián,
自由的鷲鷹, zìyóude jiùyīng,
要山河乾淨, yào shānhé gānjìng,
你們有敏眼。 nǐmen yǒu mǐn yǎn.

 Yě qīng yú hóngmáo,
也重於泰山, yě zhòng yú tàishān,
責任內消遙, zérèn nèi xiāo yáo,

 láokǔde rénxiān!
五分鐘死生, Wǔ fēnzhōng sǐshēng,
千萬顆憂心! qiānwàn kē yōuxīn!

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