动物的眼泪 – The tears of animals – English

  
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The tears of people are light, but animals weep heavy tears.

Their tears come from the depth of life.

The first time I saw the tears of an animal, I was almost shocked by it. I had believed until then that tears were the sole attribute of humans. Not until you actually see the tears an animal will you feel that consternation, realising that animals have their own kind of silent sorrow, which humans don’t understand.

The first drop — the first time I saw an animal weep, it was an old cat in my house. That old cat had been in the house for many many years, and gave birth to I don’t know how many kittens; I don’t know how old it was then either, it had just become a member of our family. Part of our daily family life was just to play with it. When it was still a kitten, we would roll it around on the floor to tease it. Later, as it grew, we held it in our arms for longer, and stroked its fur. Maybe we got too close to it. One day, it became completely addicted to our caresses. If any member of the family had not stroked it for just one day, it would go look for that person, then quietly lie next to them, waiting for their contact, and only when it had received some caress would it leave, contented.

But, after many years, that cat grew old, it started looking old too, and its movements got slower. Although our family was still very nice to it, still, I don’t know why, that cat gradually moved away from us. It would lie under the eaves of the roof all day, and no matter how much we teased it to get down, it would not come down; sometimes, it would throw us a lazy glance, but then, it would just close its eyes, expressionless. Mother said that the cat had reached the limits of its life. But humans are ruthless, and what we feared most was that it would die in a corner of a house without us realising; we were afraid it would give us trouble.

So I started observing it, and I saw that the cat was actually getting worse and worse every day. But it still lay under the eaves, or quietly slept on the windowsill, and, sleeping, waited for its last day to come. And that’s how I inadvertently made a discovery: I went to the yard to do something, and as I saw that the old cat had been lying in the window sill for very very long, I went to check whether it was asleep, or whether it was just peacefully enjoying the sun.

But when I came close to it, I suddenly discovered that, in the corner of that old cat’s eye, there was a pearl-shaped tear. Apparently, the teardrop had been in the corner of its eye for a while, and the sun had turned it into an amber-coloured bead, sitting immobile at the corner of its eye, and sending reflections in the sun, like a little shining bead. “The cat is crying!” I couldn’t help shouting towards mother inside the house, and she came out right away, as if she wanted to give the cat its final consolation. Unexpectedly, when the cat saw my mother walk towards it, it made efforts to stand up,and used its last remaining strength to climb up on the roof, step after step. At that moment, my mother wanted to have him come down, maybe she wanted to give him food for the last time, but the old cat didn’t look back, it just went away, step by step, in the distance. With such slow steps, such heavy steps.

Only then did I realize that we had been too cold towards it: it had lived all its life in our home, and yet we were afraid it would end its life in our home, and always hoping that, before its last moments, it would leave on its own, and we didn’t care where it went, as long as it didn’t stay in our house. At first, we thought it would not go away, and feared that it would seek warmth from us until the end. But we had guessed wrongly: it was just waiting for a final farewell; when it discovered that we understood it wanted to leave us, It just dropped a tear, then quietly left, and I don’t know where it went.

For a very long time, I have been unable to forget those tears; those sincere tears. They were tears that expressed a nostalgia for life, as they saw the end come near. Perhaps we humans are too eager for life, and so we always leave pain to the people who love us. But animals have their own way of feeling this: they only leave their own love behind, and contain their eternal farewell in a teardrop, then take their final pain far away.

The second drop— The tears of animals are holy, they don’t ask people for anything in return. The second time I saw an animal cry, it was the tears of an old ox. My family has a distant relative in the country, and every year for the holidays, my mother sent me to stay with them. I had many cousins of my age there, and the place is filled with warm nostalgia. My relative had an ox in the house, which had already lived with them for many years. According to my little cousin, that ox was very smart, it could understand our language. Of course, he might have thought this way because of our love for that old ox.

Whenever we called it, imitating the calls of oxen, unless it was working, it would come to us, then we would ride on his back, and without any command, it would take us to the fields. As for the group of children we formed, sometimes we were nseparable, and sometimes we would have violent quarrels; in the worst cases, we would even start hitting each other and throwing blows.

It will sound strange, but when we were playing, that old ox was looking after us, and we started exchanging blows, it would come forward, like an old friend, and put itself in the middle of us, not letting us hit each other. Within a few minutes, we had all found a new thing to do, we went running out together, and all our hatred was gone with the wind; if you looked at the ox then, it would be just eating its grass on the side. Of course, when the ox got too old, it had a sense that something would happen, and like all animals then, it started to grow apart from its owner.

Every day, we would see its eyes heavy with tears, but of that silent kind. But the biggest change in the ox’s behaviour is that it no longer looked after the children. Many times, I called it like I’d learnt to do in the past, thinking it would come over; it obviously could hear us calling, but it only turned its head towards us from afar, and then ignored us, bowed his head back and did its own thing. The custom among local people is that when an ox can no longer work, you sell it to the “soup”. This so-called “soup” is actually the slaughterhouse, and is where oxen who can no longer work are sold for meat. This is way too cruel! But Chinese farmers still don’t know how to make the last arrangements for animals.

The farmers should not be blamed, every household does it, and how do you make a farmer change his methods? This old ox was prepared for it, it seemed to have a hunch about what would happen, and every time it came back to the house, it seemed to listen carefully, and when there was a movement outside the door, it nervously looked up, and unlike what it did when it was younger, no matter what happened outside,it even not care about it,it just did its own thing. However, the day finally came – I was staying as a guest with these relatives then – and just upon hearing that the “soup” people had arrived, before we had even seen the shadow of one, we saw tears gushing out of the old ox’s eyes.

The tears of the old ox were not like those of the cat, just one drop: the tears of the ox were like a spring, and in no time at all, its all face was wet with tears. And when the whole fur on his face had become a wetland of hair, the tears kept dropping from its face, and in no time at all, it had made a pool of tears on the floor under its body. The old ox knew its life had come to an end, it had no grudges or hatred, it was just crying out, maybe bidding farewell to its owners. Then, the “soup” people took it away. All that remained was the tears, in the place where it was standing, which a pool of tears on the ground.

The tears of animals, these tears weigh more than metal, they come from the depths of life, and I won’t forget those tears in all my life!

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About julien.leyre

French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact [email protected]