The Street-Sprinklers by Hu Shih ~ 胡适 《清道夫》 with English Translations


胡适 《清道夫》



The Street-Sprinklers
Hu Shih

Everyone who has been in Peking remembers the street-sprinklers. On the long streets, as far the eye can reach and in the midst of the dust which worries and blinds the passersby, the sprinklers, two by two, carrying a large tub of water, quietly approach. Setting the tub on the ground, by means of a large wooden dipper at the end of a long handle, they spread the water over the ground far and evenly. At each spot thus watered there is no more dust to be blown about. But the rays of the sun, burning and fierce, undo all this work. Just like flames, they scorch the long boulevards as far as can be seen, till inside of a short minute the sprinkled places have become dry again. Then the wind commences to blow, or else, if automobiles drive by, the dust, always troubling and blinding those that go by, rises and flies about more than ever. Those who sprinkle continue their task steadily; that which parches keeps on parching. All the while, the sprinklers, dressed in blue, with blue chests, do not despair, in spite of the hostility of the sun. They continue to spread the water, dipperful by dipperful, and evenly. They do not return home till the sun sets and night is on them; they go home slowly and quietly, carrying their empty tub, thinking: “We have finished our work of today.”

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