You tell me that wisdom came so strangely,
You say it was a present brought by the river horse
From Prayer * by Wen Yiduo,
HEMA, THE RIVER HORSE
I don't often ride my bike to the River Horse,
but it's usually a pleasure to go there.
It has sweet candies for me which i can eat
but which i cannot wear,
and colored socks which i can wear
but which i cannot eat.
It has new tires for me on which i can ride
but on which i cannot sleep,
and blue pajamas in which i can sleep
but in which i cannot ride.
It has old DVDs for me which i can watch
but which are not really wholesome,
and brown bread which is really wholesome
but which is not worth watching.
The River Horse has ev'rything for ev'ryone,
and seems to be pleased to see you back.
It gives me the black-and-white tire
while saying: "Eight euro, ninety-five, please".
Not at all surprised, without hesitation,
i hand the River Horse a ten-euro bill.
It gives me one euro and five cents
while saying: "Here's your change. Goodbye".
I trust the River Horse when i go shopping.
I know that it needs money to stay alive,
that it can't give things away for free.
That wisdom never came to me strangely.
ai dohnt OF(t)an RAID mai BAIK tu dha RIvar HAWRS,
but its JOOzh(u-)ali a PLEzhar tu GOH dher.
it haez sweet KAENdiz far mi (H)WITSH ai kaen EET
bat (h)witsh ai KAEnot WER,
aend KAlard SOKS (H)WITSH ai kaen WER
bat (h)witsh ai KAEnot EET.
it haez n(j)oo TAIRZ far mi ON (h)witsh ai kaen RAID
bat ON (h)witsh ai KAEnot SLEEP,
aend bloo paDZHAHmaz IN (h)witsh ai kaen SLEEP
bat IN (h)witsh ai KAEnot RAID.
it haez ohld DEEvee-DEEZ far mi (H)WITSH ai kaen WOTSH
bat (h)witsh ahr NOT REEli HOHL-sam,
and braun BRED (H)WITSH iz REEli HOHL-sam,
bat (h)witsh iz NOT warth WOtshing.
dha RIvar HAWRS hae+ZEvri-THING fa+REvri-WAN,
AEND seemz tu bi PLEEZD tu SEE ju BAEK.
it GIVZ mi dha BLAEK=an=(H)WAIT TAIR
(h)wail SEI-ing: "EIT JUroh, NAINti=FAIV, PLEEZ".
NOt+a-T+ALL sar-PRAIZD, wi-DHAUT HEzi-TEIshan,
ai HAEND dha RIvar HAWRS a TEN=JUroh BIL.
it GIVZ mi WAN JUroh an(d) FAIV SENTS
(h)wail SEI-ing: "HEERZ jawr TSHEINDZH. gud-BAI".
ai TRUST dha RIvar HAWRS (h)wen ai goh SHOping.
ai NOH dhat it needz MAni tu STEI a-LAIV,
dhat it KAHNT giv THINGZ a-WEI far FREE.
DHAET WIZ-dam NEvar KEIM tu mi STREINDZH-li.
The pronunciation given above makes use of the double-case phonemic transcription
system, except that only sharp syllable divisions are shown.
Alternative pronunciations, such as |wi-THAUT| instead of |wi-DHAUT|, may
be correct too, but are only indicated where this is possible by means
of parentheses. Monosyllabic words are presented as stressed or unstressed
syllables dependent on their position or role in the line or sentence.
Note that in a nonrhotic dialect the letter r will not be
pronounced, unless followed by a vowel.
Unstressed vowels are often changed into an |a| (schwa) as in |ta| for
|tu|, |ja| for |ju| and |jar| for |jawr| or |jur| (your).
Many speakers will replace the unstressed |i| at the end of a word in the
singular with |ee|, and say |KAENdeez|, |Evree|, |NAINtee| and |MAnee|.
All adverbs ending in |li| (ly) show a similar pattern.
The same speakers tend to replace |AH| with |AE| and |O| with |AH| as well.
Thus they will say |KAENT| and |SAHKS|, |AHN|, |WAHTSH|, |NAHT| and
|SHAHping|. An exception is |OF(t)an|, which may also be
pronounced |AWFtan|, with or without |t|.
M. Vincent van
For the twin version of this poem in Zhezhong Yuyan see Hema He Wo.
Another poem in This Language inspired by Wen Yiduo's Prayer
can be found at
* The Putonghua word for river horse is hémǎ,
in characters 河马.
In the Benelux and Germany HEMA is a large chain of department stores.