"The Harper."


"The Harper."
by Vlas Mikhailovich Doroshevich (1864--1922).


The Emperor Jin-La-O, may his memory be sacred to the whole braid-adorned world, was a wise and just Emperor.
One day he summoned his entourage and said to them:
- I would like to learn the name of the greatest villain in all of Beijing - in order to punish him appropriately, frighten the wicked and encourage the virtuous.
The courtiers bowed at his feet and set forth. For three days and three nights they walked around Beijing, visiting bazaars, teahouses, opium dens, temples and generally places where people crowd. They listened attentively.
And on the fourth day they came to the Emperor, bowed at his feet and said:
- We did all that our humble strengths could do to fulfill your heavenly will. And indeed they had.
- Do you now know who is the greatest villain in Beijing? - asked the Emperor.
- Yes, Master of the Universe. We know him. -- His name? - Jian-Fu.
- What has this scoundrel been up to? - exclaimed, boiling over with noble indignation, the Emperor.
- He plays the harp! - the emissaries answered.
- What crimes does this harper commit? Does he kill people? - asked the Emperor.
-- No.
- Does he rob?
-- No.
- Does he steal?
-- No.
- But what, at last, are the incredible doings of this man? - exclaimed the Emperor, lost in conjecture.
- Exactly nothing! - the emissaries answered. - He only plays the harp. And he plays splendidly, I must confess. You yourself, the Lord of the Sun and the Lord of the Universe, have repeatedly deigned to listen to his playing and even approved of it.
-- Yes Yes! Now I recall! Harper Jian-Fu! I recall. An excellent harper! But why do you consider him to be the greatest villain in Beijing?
The courtiers bowed and answered:
- Because all of Beijing scolds him. "Scoundrel Jian-Fu"! "Swindler Jian-Fu"! "Villain Jian-Fu"! - is all you hear at every step you take. We went around all the temples, all the bazaars, all the teahouses, all the places where people crowd - and everywhere everyone spoke only of Jian-Fu. And when they spoke of him, they did nothing but to scold him.
-- Strange! - exclaimed the Emperor. - No, there is surely something amiss here!
And he decided to investigate the peculiar matter himself. He disguised himself as a commoner and, accompanied by two similarly-disguised bodyguards, set off to wander the streets of Beijing. He came to the bazaar.
The morning market was over, the merchants were folding their baskets and chatting among themselves.
- This wretch Jian-Fu! - shouted one of the traders. - He played a sad song again last night at the new moon holiday. If only he would play something merry!
- Don't hold your breath! the other laughed viciously. - Can this scoundrel even play merry songs?! Making merry is for those whose souls are as white as a tea-tree flower. But this swindler has a soul as black as ink. That's why he plays only sad songs.
- How does such a villain cheat the gallows! someone in the crowd exclaimed.
- He ought to be cut in half with a blunt saw, and certainly the long way through! - corrected a neighbor.
- No, tie him to two horses by the arms and legs and tear him apart!
- Put him in a sack with cats that have not been fed for a long time!
And everyone shouted:
- Villain Jian-Fu! - Scoundrel Jian-Fu! - How does the earth stand him!
The Emperor went to the tea house.
Visitors sat on mats and drank tea from tiny cups.
- Good afternoon, good people! Let the souls of your ancestors whisper good advice to your souls! - greeted the Emperor, entering and bowing. - What's new in Beijing?
- Why, before you got here, we were just talking about the villain Jian-Fu! - said one of those present. - Has he done something? - asked the Emperor. -- What? Didn't you hear? The whole city is talking about it! - exclaimed all around. - Yesterday he accidentally hooked his fingernail on the wrong string and hit the wrong note! Scoundrel!
- What a horror it was! one of them exclaimed, pretending to writhe.
- And yet he hasn't been hanged yet! - Nor torn to pieces!
And all, indignant to the depths of their souls, exclaimed:
- Scoundrel Jian-Fu! - Swindler Jian-Fu! - Villain Jian-Fu!
The Emperor went to the opium den. There was a terrible din there.
-- What happened? - asked the Emperor.
-- A! As always! They are arguing about Jian-Fu! - the owner waved his hand.
The smokers, lying on their cots, scolded Jian-Fu through and through.
- He played five songs yesterday! one shouted. - As if two weren't enough! - He played five songs yesterday! - grumbled another. - As if he couldn't have played seven or eight!
And they scolded Jian-Fu until they fell asleep with their eyes open.
And even then, they muttered in their sleep: - That villain Jian-Fu! - Scoundrel Jian-Fu!
- Swindler to rule all swindlers, Jian-Fu!
The Emperor went to the temple.
People prayed to the gods, but when they got tired of praying, they began to exchange remarks and whispered to each other:
- And Jian-Fu, it so happens, is a scoundrel!
In short, until nightfall the Emperor walked around the whole city and everywhere heard only: - Jian-Fu! Jian-Fu! Jian-Fu! The villain! Scoundrel! Swindler! Finally, in the evening, returning home, he stopped on his way at the house of a poor coolie and, wishing the hosts a good supper, asked:
- Have you heard the harper Jian-Fu?
- How could we have! - answered the poor coolie. - Do you think we have time for entertainment or money to pay to hear harp music! We haven't even enough for rice! But we still know that Jian-Fu is a scoundrel! All of Beijing is talking about it.
And the whole family set off nitpicking the playing of a man whom they had never seen or heard, and said: - That villain Jian-Fu! - Scoundrel Jian-Fu! - Swindler Jian-Fu!
The Emperor, returning to the palace, was beside himself with amazement.
- What could all of this mean?
And, despite the late hour, he ordered that Jian-Fu be found right away and brought to him.
The harper was found and immediately brought to the Emperor.
- Hello, Jian-Fu! - said the Emperor. - Do you know that all of Beijing is scolding no one but you?
- I know, Heavenly Wisdom! - replied Jian-Fu as he bowed low.
- All they do is nitpick your playing! They pick on such trifles that it's simply awful. And they scold you for such little things through and through!
- I know, Heavenly Wisdom! - babbled Jian-Fu.
- So why is this happening?
- This happens, it turns out, for a very simple reason! - answered Jian-Fu. They are not allowed to discuss anything except for my harp-playing. So they singled me out for nitpicking and scolding.
The Emperor put his finger to his forehead and said:
-- A!
And he banned all discussion of Jian-Fu's playing as well. The Emperor Jin-La-O was a just Emperor.

This entry was written by Stanislav , posted on Monday September 27 2021 , filed under Books, Chumpatronics, Distractions, NonLoper, Philology, Philosophy, Translations . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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