08. 18. 2012. 08:51

Iriyam and Yonibe (excerpt)

A beautiful and mysterious fairy tale poem about Iriyam, the fish queen and Yonibe, the bird king—a timeless story of love, parting and reuniting.

Yonibe, the King of the Birds, sits in the seven oceans’
depths, wings lowered. No longer does he fly
from the tree of Day to the tree of Midnight, no longer does he
speak the word of Dawn or the word of Twilight,
midnight has plunged to the seven seas’ depths,
the sun sleeps in the seven seas’ depths.
And Yonibe does not eat for seven years.
His legs grow thin, like a stalk of wheat,
his craw distended, on his beak algae and seaweed,
and for seven years he thinks of one song:

Fire, water, air,
the Flower of Three is turned by one hand.
If fire is above, it is wind that I blow,
If wind is above, it is fire that I light,
If water is above, to the water I jump --
fire, water, air,
the Flower of Three is turned by one hand.

And as the seven years passed, the sea grew old.
The sun, embracing a stone like climbing ivy,
wept, the evening fed Yonibe, the King of the Birds,
with Moonsilver, so that he would not
disappear altogether. And after seven years,
Iriyam, the Queen of the Fish, swam to that place.
As she traversed many miles across the
seven seas, all of her offspring did perish --
When she swam in the air above, the lord of light
roasted twelve of them, when she swam
in the earth below, the lord of the earth caught thirty-three,
and in the seaweed forests of the seven seas,
the most beautiful seventy-seven perished. And
Iriyam remembered what she sang after Sarana,
the old Queen of the Fish, had died:

Once I was seven fish, seven
red fish was I. And once I hid
in the shallow water, in the seven reeds’
stems, and if the seven red fish swam

together, no creature at all
swallowed up their little finger-like
bodies. Seven voices had I, seven
empty voices: and in seven places water

flowed into me, I breathed with seven souls,
every soul changed colour seven
times. But my mother called to me to
return from my seven waters: “my

little seven fish, here the voice awaits you.”
And I swam, I swam across seven
rivers – there lay my mother’s body, next
to the river where the bank is missing.

And for seven years Yonibe was half
covered by mud. Even the Lord of the Waters forgot
about him, believing he no longer lived. And the
Queen of the Fish saw him there, and swam a circle
around him three times. In the midst of the first circle, Yonibe
was like a hillock of mud, in the midst
of the second circle, like a branch fallen into the water,
and in the midst of the third circle, once again he sat,
the King of the Birds, who for seven years had not moved.
And Iriyam asked: “Where are your
people, o King of the Birds, what have you sung
to them for the past seven years?” And as if Yonibe
were only awakening now, he opened his beak
full of seaweed, but his voice was hoarse
for his throat was also filled with mud.

The breeze leads on a crippled sparrow,
pulls the Sun in a rattling cart.
Ay, don’t let the Night-Horse reach them,
Ay, don’t let the wheel run into a pothole!
Forward they leap, then they stop:

Poor Sparrow, pull; keep on pulling –
the wind urges, but does the sparrow hear?
What shall I do, what shall I do, the Sun goes like that.

Iriyam knew this song from a long time ago, and
she was sorry for the King of the Birds. And Yonibe
began to implore her: “Stay here with me, in the
seven seas’ depths, O Radiant Queen,
let us await together for the wind and the fire
to rise up from the water.” And Iriyam
sat down next to Yonibe, and she made a nest
for herself in the mud. Then after some time, she spoke:
“I must go, Yonibe, I may not remain here anymore,
I must search for my poor offspring.”
And Yonibe answered: “Do not leave, for when you arrived,
the Moon rubbed its silver upon you,
and it has only just slipped back among the stones.”
“When I arrived here, the Moon’s silver
shone most beautifully, you remember well, o King of the Birds,
and only now has it slipped back among the stones, but
since that time seven years have passed, for seven years
I have been with you.” Yonibe grew sorrowful and he implored
the Queen of the Fish: “Take me with you, Iriyam,
I can no longer sit here alone.” And Iriyam replied:
“How shall I take you, Yonibe, for you are heavy
and you don’t know how to swim.” Then Yonibe curled himself
up into a ball, just as little as he could, the Queen of the Fish
gobbled him up, and swam across the seven seas.

The wind is swimming,
the fire in wind -
gentle flame-breeze
winds’ fire
ay, where goes it chasing?

Wind’s circle in water,
Water’s name in fire,
Fire’s wind-strength
would I be -

The water aflame,
the breeze in the water -
the circle of wind,
water’s name,
ay, for how long?

Seven times Iriyam swam in a circle around the seven seas,
but she did not find her offspring. And in the meantime Yonibe
moulded a tiny scarlet fish from the liver of the Queen of the Fish,
making it look like Iriyam as he remembered her,
and he put upon its sides wings from his own
plumage. And Iriyam felt the flutter of the wings
within her, and she asked Yonibe
what it was. And Yonibe answered: “From your liver I have
moulded a tiny scarlet fish, and I have put upon its sides
wings from my own plumage.” And Iriyam said:
“Yoremesh shall be his name, for he shall know
how to fly, the Sun and the Moon shall love him.”
When Iriyam had swum around the waters
of the seven seas for the seventh time, she released
Yoremesh from her insides, and she said to Yonibe: “Stay
with me now for all time to come, for now you
are no longer the King of the Birds, and I am no longer the Queen
of the Fish.” Yoremesh, however, flew across seven
skies, swam across seven heavens; the Sun and the Moon
followed him; water wind and fire accompanied him.
And as he flew, Yoremesh thought of a song:

Of three mothers am I born,
not even one knows my name.
My head moulded from treacherous flame,
my breast from the wind enraged,
my wings from the waters rushing –
Of three mothers am I born,
not even  one knows my name.

And Yoremesh never returned to the waters of the seven seas,
never again did he see Iriyam and Yonibe. He flew
from the tree of day to the tree of midnight, he spoke the Word of Dawn,
the word of Dusk, he was fed by the fire and given drink
by the water, he alighted upon the winds,
and again the Sun shone, and again the Moon glimmered.


Gábor Schein: Irijam és Jonibe

Csodaceruza, 2009

Illustrations by Kinga Rófusz

Translated by: Ottilie Mulzet

Tags: Gábor Schein