793. The Wren, by Chang Hua

The wren is a tiny bird.
It eats only a few grains;
it makes its nest
on a single branch;
it can only fly a few feet;
it takes up little space
and does no harm.

Its feathers are drab; it is useless
to humankind, but it
receives the force of life.

Ducks and geese can fly up to the clouds,
yet they are shot down with arrows,
for their flesh is plump.

Kingfishers and peacocks must die
because their feathers are beautiful.

The falcon is fierce, but is kept
on a tether; the parrot
is intelligent, but is locked
in a cage, where it is forced
to repeat its master's words.

Only the little wren,
worthless and unlovely,
is free.

(trans Eliot Weinberger; the spacing is mine)

Source: An Elemental Thing

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