Nothing like a good song to stir people's spirits in a time of adversity, and this is nothing like a good song. Creeping in amidst a veritable plague of maudlin events, including but not limited to three plays, at least twenty books, several TV specials, and the very unheralded but nonetheless noted return of widespread expectoration to the streets of Beijing; this song captures, in the mind of the writer at least, the SARS spirit.
But what exactly is the "SARS spirit"? Is it anger at price gouging mask sellers? Is it the fear of the fear of the disease? Is it that sick, dead feeling you got when you first heard about those poor pets beaten to death on the strength of a rumour? The itching between your shoulderblades when it becomes clear your every movement is now reported to the PSB, and you realise that the system has always been in place to track you, it's just that no one has been bothering until now? Is it the joy of the children who had 4 months clear from all the "optional" extra classes any parent above the poverty line forces them to attend, willing or unwilling? Is it the ray of hope the sacking of Beijing's mayor shone on the distant dream of government accountability in China? There certainly seems to be very little in the zeitgeist here in China's capital about "pulling together" in any sense of the phrase, even in patriotic restrospect.
Whatever the song says about the SARS spirit, there is something else it communicates very cleary. And that is the ever-present danger of word-for-word translation. The job of the translator is a sacred one. Unfortunately, generations of English teaching by non-native speakers means that, in China at least, good translations are sent back to the translator with red ink everywhere, and word-for-word translations are praised and published as art. Which they are, of course; valuable additions to the black comedic arts.
Without any ado and remember our motto SARS = Smile And Remain Smile you are welcome to enjoy:
A bugler has been blowing
A bugler anti-SARS has been blowing
The moment our motherland needs us has come,
When people facing "SARS" are out of their wise,
Our dear fellow soldiers have already stood up to it.
Fellow soldiers, no matter where you are from,
A strong man or supple woman, old or young,
We hold the same believes and shoulder common misson,
That is to protect the Capital Beijing and fight off "SARS".
Our fellow soldiers, we may not be aquaint with each other and work in different wards,
But, never are you and I lonely,
Because shoulder to shoulder we are fighting against the evil "SARS",
And going through the same arduous test, to win anti-SARS first.
Our fellow soldiers, please cherish yourself,
Scientific ward off and protect,
Contact patients in zero distance,
The sympathy and treating skill for patients are to be displaying.
In the field where there isn't smoke and blast,
Facing up to such difficulties never met before,
We have science and confidence,
Please trust yourself, only is it the time to defeat SARS.
Our fellow soldiers, from ancient to nowadays,
Never is Chinese lack of heroes and heroines.
Today, we have been placed in the farthermost frontier by the history,
A new poem has been awaiting us to write.
Written by: 姜忠华 Jiang Zhonghua, translator unknown. This work of charity is in the public domain.
Published in: 小汤山日记 "The SARS Suburb Diary" ISBN 7-5033-1648-9
generic-man informs me that Will Forte and Jerry Minor presented their own SARS Song on SNL's Weekend Update, although apparently the only lyrics were "Listen up listen up listen up..." repeated ad nauseum.
Crediting the translator. Self-inflicted softlinking! The widespread practice of not crediting the translator, endemic in China, must stop.