03 April 2014

老子 Lao Zi: 道德經 六十三章 Dao De Jing Chapter 63 (Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching 63)

Last year, I posted here 2 chapters of Lao Zi: Dao De Jing (or Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching), a most translated work reputedly second only to the Bible.  They are Chapters 17 and 49, posted in January and February respectively.  In my English rendition, I have interpreted them to be on the question of trust, that the sage ruler ought to have trust in his people, that "it is the ruler's lack of trust in the people that creates their mistrust" (chapter 17, line 5).

Today, I am giving you my rendition of Chapter 63 with my interpretation that the 於 in 其易/ 細 (lines 6 and 7) does not mean "when/while" it is easy/small but should mean "where" it is easy/small, and, hence, the  於 in 易/ 細 (lines 8 and 9) cannot mean "when/while" it is easy/small but must mean "through" the easy/small.  Problems big and tough can be split into smaller and easier parts to handle. This reminds me of Karl Popper's "piecemeal social engineering".  A truly great practical philosophy, not just for sage rulers, but for everyman's everyday life!

Lao Zi (circa 500 BCE): Dao De Jing Chapter 63
(Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching  63)

1       Act not for the sake of being active;
2       Pursue not for the sake of pursuits;
3       Find taste in the otherwise tasteless.
4       Regard the small as great, the few as many,
5       Requite goodness for injury

6     Tackle the difficult where it is easy,
7     Act on the great where it is small;
8     The difficult in the world can be done through the easy,
9     The great in the world can be done through the small.
10   Thus, the sage ruler never acts on anything great
11   That he can succeed in achieving the great.

12      Now, he who makes promises lightly rarely keeps them,
13      He who regards matters to be easy often finds them difficult.
14      Thus, the sage ruler ever regards matters to be difficult
15      That they, in the end, turn out not to be difficult.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
5th February 2013 (revised 27.2.13)
Translated from the Chinese original - 老子: 道德經 六十三章

1        為無為,
2        事無事,
3        味無味。
4        大小多少,
5        報怨以德。

6        圖難於其易,
7        為大於其細;
8        天下難事必作於易,
9        天下大事必作於細。
10     是以聖人終不為大,
11     故能成其大。

12     夫輕諾必寡信,
13     多易必多難。
14     是以聖人猶難之,
15     故终無難矣。

*    Lines 1, 2 and 3:  I have, and I think rightly, taken “act” (line1), “pursue” (line 2) and “taste” (line 3) to be inevitable and have, therefore, come to interpret line 1 為無為 as 為,但不要為了自己要有所作為而為之  “Act not for the sake of being active”, line 2 事無事 as 事,但不要為自己的事業業績而從事 “Pursue not for the sake of pursuits”, and line 3 味無味 as (自然的味)是可以在無味中找到的 “Find taste in the otherwise tasteless”.
*    Lines 4, 13 and 14:  大小多少 in line 4 can be interpreted as 大者小之,多者少之 to mean it is nature’s way to “dwarf the great and dwindle the plentiful” which interpretation, however, does not seem to fit the context which is a piece of advice on how to handle worldly matters.  I have, therefore, interpreted it as 視小者如大,少者如多 “Regard the small as great, the few as many” which is in full accord with the sentiments of lines 13 and 14 多易必多難 是以聖人猶難之 “He who takes most things as easy often finds them difficult.  Thus it is because the sage ruler ever regards things as difficult …..”
*    Lines 6 and 7:  Most translators have rendered the word as “when” or “while”.  I beg to differ and have instead rendered it as “where”.  I believe this “where” is where the true wisdom of Lao Zi lies.  Though reluctant, I am prepared to accept the inclusion of “when” in addition to my “where”, but only as “where or when” in that order.
*    Lines 8 and 9:  For 必作於 I had considered “should/must be done through” but have now decided for “can only be done through”.

*    Lines 13 and 14:  In line 13, 多易 is rendered as “regards most things as easy” and 多難 as “often finds them difficult”, and in line 14, 猶難之 is rendered as “ever regards things as difficult”.  For these adaptations and more, I am grateful to the late D.C. Lau.

13 March 2014

劉禹錫 Liu Yuxi: 秋詞 其一(自古逢秋) Autumn Song I (As of old when autumn)

In this hazy, misty spring time, how we long for the bright, clear autumn.  This is how Liu Yuxi, the great late Tang dynasty poet, sees autumn.  Read it out loud to be one with him:- 

Liu Yuxi (772-842):  Autumn Song I (As of old when autumn)  

1  As of old when autumn falls, themes forlorn we bemoan;
2  But I say the autumn day excels any spring morn known.
3   Flapping skywards, a crane, past clouds white in the sun,
4   O how my muse of poesy to the heavens azure has flown.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)        譯者: 黃宏發
22nd October 2008 (revised 23.10.08; 27.10.08; 28.10.08; 10.9.2013)
Translated from the Chinese original - 劉禹錫:  秋詞 其一 (自古逢秋)

1  自古逢秋悲寂寥
2   我言秋日勝春朝
3   晴空一鶴排雲上
4   便引詩情到碧霄

*  The original is in 7-character lines; I have been able to reduce this English rendition into a hexameter (6 metrical feet).  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.
*  Line1:  I had originally used “autumn comes” but have now decided for “autumn falls”.  I had used “men bemoan” but have now decided for “we bemoan”.
*  Line 2:  I had considered “surpasses” but have decided for “excels”.
*  Line 3:  I had originally penned the line as “Up and soaring a crane, through the clouds of the sunlit sky” which I find unsatisfactory.  Firstly, “Up and soaring … through clouds”, though an adequate translation of, is less than adequate to translate 排雲.  Secondly, “clouds” (which implies cloudiness/a cloudy day) and “sunlit sky” (which implies a sunny sky/a sunny day) are contradictory.  I have now scrambled the line into “Flapping skywards a crane, past clouds white in the sun”.

*  Line 4:  I had first penned “And to the azurean skies above, my poetic passion has flown”, but have now decided for “O how my muse of poesy, to the heavens azure has flown” dropping the word “azurean” which may be considered archaic.

04 February 2014

孟浩然 Meng Haoran: 宿建德江 Sojourn on the River at Jiande

This is a 20-character quatrain (four 5-character lines) by the Tang dynasty poet Meng Haoran.  I have been unable to compress my English rendition into lines of 5 or less beats (e.g. 4) as I have for nearly all my other renditions of 5-character quatrains.  This is probably due to my insistence on following the original rhyme scheme (mea culpa?) and my crude attempt to reproduce in English the peculiarly Chinese couplet form (unrhymed, but perfect parallel diction) in lines 3 and 4 (bravo?).  In addition, I have also failed to provide in my rather breathless 6-beat (hexameter) lines a mid-line pause (caesura), say after 3 beats, which has made most of my other 6-beat renditions sound pleasurable.

To make my rendition sound poetic, may I suggest that my lines be read with a pause after the first 2 beats, another pause (albeit shorter) after the next 2 beats followed by 2 beats with a long end-rhyme.  Care for a go?.

Meng Haoran (689-740):  Sojourn on the River at Jiande

1  My boat is steered to moor by an isle in a misty chemise;
2  The day now done, my sorrows, in sojourn, well up again.
3  So open the country, there hangs the sky below the trees;
4  So limpid the river, here lies the moon to befriend us men.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發    
3rd June 2008 (revised 12.6008; 13.6.08; 23.6.08; 19.7.08; 24.2.2009; 29.1.2014)
Translated from the original - 孟浩然: 宿建德江

1 移舟泊煙渚
2 日暮客愁新
3 野曠天低樹
4 江清月近人

* Meter and rhyme: I have been unable to render the poem in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines. This rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet). The rhyme scheme is ABAB as in the original if 渚 and 樹 are taken to rhyme. . 
* Line 1: The word “chemise” (not in the original poem) is used primarily to rhyme with “trees” in line 3. It does, however, produce the image of the island wearing a white garment, somewhat akin to Herbert Giles’ use of “mist-clad”. I am also grateful to Giles for his choice of the word “steer” for 移 in “I steer my boat 
to anchor” which I have turned into “My boat is steered to moor” to obviate the active first person “I” which might suggest that the poet is steering.
* Line 2: 客 “traveller/sojourner” refers to the poet himself, hence, 客愁 is rendered as “my sorrows, in sojourn”. 新 “new” should be taken to mean “anew/renew/afresh” and is, hence, rendered as “well up again”. My use of the word “sorrows” in the plural makes it possible to read the line to include “old” sorrows in addition to “new” ones.
* Lines 3 and 4: This is a rare couplet in a Tang quatrain. My rendition is an attempt to reproduce in English this peculiarly Chinese form of the couplet (parallel diction and, invariably, unrhymed).  I have added "there hangs" and "here lies" to strengthen the symmetry.  I had originally penned "The country so open" and The river so limpid" to follow the order of the words in the original, but have now decided to inverse the order.
* Line 3: 天低樹 “sky” “low/dwarf/below/beneath” “tree” can be understood as either “the trees are dwarfed by the sky” or “the sky is dwarfed by the trees”. I have adopted the latter which, I am sure you will agree, is the picture one would see at dusk, sitting in a small boat off an isle with mature trees, looking at the vast open country beyond.  I had used "there sits the sky beneath", but have now decided for "there hangs the sky below".   
* Line 4: 近人 literally “near men” has the additional meaning of “approachable/friendly".  I had originally used “to be close to men” to cover both meanings, but have now decided for "to befriend us men".

13 January 2014

太上隱者 Taishang Yinzhe (Supreme Hermit): 答人 In Reply to Someone

Here is a beautiful quatrain by an anonymous Tang dynasty poet whose identity is a complete mystery, true to the name "Supreme Hermit" he coined for himself probably just for the poem.  Or it may well be that even the name was coined not by himself but by anthologists of posterity.  On the poem itself, does it not remind one of Li Bai's (李白) "Why in the Mountains" ( 山中問答) posted on this blog in June 2011?  Please click:-

Taishang Yinzhe (Supreme Hermit) (Tang dynasty, years unknown): In Reply to Someone

1  By chance to have come beneath the pine,
2  With a boulder for pillow, I sleep care free.
3  Blind, in these mountains, to calendared days,
4  Care not, as the cold wanes, what year it be!

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  譯者: 黄宏發
12th April 2010 (revised 13.4.2010; 23.5.2011; 15.11.2013)
Translated from the original - 太上隱者: 答人

1  偶來松樹下
2  高枕石頭眠
3  山中無曆日
4  寒盡不知年

*  This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.
*  Line 1:  I had originally penned “Just happen to’ve come”, then considered “By chance I have come” and have now decided for “By chance to have come”.  I have chosen to use “pine” to conform to the less demanding XAXA rhyme scheme of the original although “pine-tree” can turn the rhyme scheme into the more demanding AAXA.
*  Line 2:  I had considered “resting” and “slumbering” but have decided for “sleeping”.  As idiomatically, (high pillow) means 無憂 (no worries), To translate I have used “carefree” but split into two words so as to move the stress from “care” to “free”.
*  Line 3:  (no, nil) is taken to mean 無須 (need not) and is translated as “blind … to”.  I have used “calendar” as a verb to make the verb-adjective “calendared” convey the meaning of “keeping count of days, months and years”
*  Line 4:  Similar to in line 3, (not) is taken to mean 不須 (need not) and is translated as “Care not” (or “Who cares”) instead of “Know not”.  I had originally penned “when spring comes” which I consider more logical and natural because 寒盡 (cold/winter ends) implies 春來 (spring comes) as in the idiom 苦盡甘來 (bitterness ends, sweetness comes; or every cloud has a silver lining).  Notwithstanding, I have now decided for the literal “as the cold wanes”.

02 December 2013

李商隱 Li Shangyin: 夜雨寄北(內) Written on a Rainy Night - A Letter to the North (My Wife)

Here is my rendition of a beautiful poem by Li Shangyin (late Tang dynasty poet) which I translated some 3 years ago.  I hope you will enjoy it.

Li Shangyin (813-858): Written on a Rainy Night - A Letter to the North (My Wife)

1  You asked of my date of return, I alas have none to tell,
2   In Bashan night rains in autumn, the pools and puddles swell.
3   How I long to be with you, your west wing candles to trim, and  
4   To talk of the times and hours when in Bashan night rains fell.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)        譯者: 黃宏發
2nd November 2008 (revised 3.11.08; 5.11.08; 6.11.08; 17.11.08; 19.2.09; 26.6.09; 20.10.10; 22.10.10; 25.10.10; 26.10.10)
Translated from the original - 李商隱: 夜雨寄北()

1  君問歸期未有期
2  巴山夜雨漲秋池
3  何當共剪西窗燭
4  却話巴山夜雨時

* Meter and rhyme:  The original poem is in 7-character lines.  This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet).  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.  I am indebted to 施穎洲 for the “tell(1) -swell(2) - fell(4)” rhyme of his rendition of the same poem which he has entitled “Lines for Home in Rainy Night” in his ”Tang and Song Poetry: Chinese-English” (中英對照讀唐詩宋詞), Taipei: Chiuko (台北: 九歌), 2006, pp. 156-157.
* Title and interpretation:  There are 2 versions to the title, “to the North” 寄北 and “to My Wife” 寄內, giving rather different interpretations to the poem.  Although “to the North” is the preferred title, “to My Wife” is the preferred interpretation of most Chinese scholars as the contents of the poem, albeit ambiguous, conveys an intimacy which can only be marital.  My rendition is similarly ambiguous although I have taken “to the North” in the title as there are strong grounds for this, as by the time the poet was posted to Bashan (present day Chongqing 重慶 until recently the eastern part of Sichuan 四川), his wife had already passed away.  The addressee must therefore be someone very close to the poet; and it has been suggested that a possible addressee is Wen Tingyun (812-870) 温庭筠, a poet who had exchanged poems with the poet. 
* Line 1:  I had considered “day” but have decided for “date” to translate .
* Line 2:  I had used “puddles and ponds do swell” and “pools and ponds do swell” but have now decided for “pools and puddles swell”.
* Line 3:  For 何堪共 I had considered but rejected “O how I long to be home with you” as this would make the poem unambiguously a letter to the wife (please see my note on title and interpretation above).  I had then considered “how I long/wish we’re together/I’m with you/to join you/to be with you” and have decided for “How I long to be with you” (the word “with” read stressed).  For 剪西窗燭 I had considered “by the west window candles to trim” and the whole line as “How I long to trim with you, candles by the window to the west”.  Now that I have come to interpret 西窗 “west window” as a synecdoche for 西廂 “west wing/room/suite”, I have decided for “your west wing candles to trim”.
* Line 4:  I had first penned the line as “To speak of our lonesome times when in Bashan night rains fell”, but       have now decided against adding “lonesome” (which is not in the original) and have changed it to “To           talk of the times and hours when in Bashan night rains fell”.

01 November 2013

王維 Wang Wei: 送別 Farewell

Here is a simple yet beautiful quatrain by the famed Tang dynasty poet Wang Wei.  It is taken to be a friendship poem by most, but I suppose one can always use it as a love poem without changing too many words.

Wang Wei (701-761):  Farewell

1  Here in the hills, I bade you farewell;
2  And by dusk I closed my twiggen door.
3  O grass will again be green next spring!
4  Might you, my lord, be back once more?

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
24th September 2013 (revised 25.9.13; 26.9.13; 3.10.13; 4.10.13; 5.10.13; 21.10.13; 22.10.13; 28.10.13)
Translated from the original - 王維送別

1  山中相送罷
2  日暮掩柴扉
3  春草明年綠
4  王孫歸不歸

*Meter & Rhyme:  This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 beats) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.
*Lines 1 and 4:  I had given much thought to whether the visitor the poet bade farewell to should be rendered in the second person (“bade you farewell” and “my lord”) with the poet thinking to himself as if he were addressing the visitor, or the third (“bade him farewell” and “his lordship”) with the poet simply thinking to himself.  I had originally penned the lines in the second person but then changed them to the third.  I now consider the third person too impersonal to truly reflect the poet’s feelings and have decided to revert to the second person.
*Line 1:  I have added the word “Here” as I take 山中 “in the hills” to mean the hills where the poet lives, so “In the hills where I live”.   I had also considered adding the word “my”, e.g. “In these my hills” and “Here in my hills”, but have now decided for the simple “Here in the hills”.  For the word (相送) “finished (bidding farewell)”, I have rendered it simply in the past tense.  This inadequacy is made up by my adding the word “by” before “dusk” in line 2 to denote the passage of time.
*Line 2:  I had, for the reason stated in the note above, considered and rejected “at dusk” after which,  I considered “now/come dusk” and have now decided for “by dusk”.  I take 柴扉 “faggots--door” to be equivalent to 蓬門 “reeds/grass--door”, both terms mean a “door made of plaited cheap materials such as faggots, twigs, brushwood, reeds, grass and bamboo” and both used to connote a “humble dwelling” (but not exactly equivalent to 竹門 “bamboo--door” which term is usually used figuratively to refer to a family of a lowly status).  I had therefore considered “humble” and “shabby” but had decided to stay close the word “door” in the original.  I then considered but dropped “wicker” and “wickerwork”; and of the two most appropriate words “brushwood” and “twiggen”, I have chosen the latter primarily because it sounds better (Twiggen:  a/Made of twigs or wickerwork; also, having a wickerwork covering  b/Arising from burning twigs or brushwood  O.E.D.) although “brushwood” is equally acceptable in terms of meaning.
*Line 3:  I had considered rendering the line closer to the original as “Spring grass will (again) be green next year” but have found both “Spring grass” and “next year” rather clumsy, hence, “O grass will again be green next spring!!”   Please note I have added “again” which is implied in the original.

*Line 4:  Instead of “prince”, I have rendered 王孫 “a nobleman’s offspring” as “lord/lordship” for assonance with “more”.  I had originally translated as “return”, then considered “come back” as an alternative, then “be here” to echo both the “Here” in line 1 and the “be green” in line 3, but have now decided for “be back”.  As for 歸不歸 “return or not return”, I had considered (a) “Will you or won’t you be back once more” with 王孫  “my lord” moved to line 1 to read “In the hills my lord …”,  (b) “Won’t you my lord be back once more”, and (c) “Will you my lord be back once more”, but have now decided for “Might you, my lord, be back once more”, the “might you” formulation being a question asked in deference couching the poet’s wish that his noble friend will return.       

03 October 2013

李煜 Li Yu: 虞美人 Yu Mei Ren (Lady Yu, the Royal Beauty/Concubine)

Li Yu (937-978):  Yu Mei Ren (Lady Yu, the Royal Beauty/Concubine)  

1  Spring flowers and autumn moon, O when will all these end?
2  How much of my past I comprehend?
3  Last night, to my loft once more, the vernal east wind came;
4  In moonlight, I could not bear to look back towards my  
         homeland rid of my name.

5  Jade steps and carved railings may still as ever be there,
6  Though changed are the faces fair.
7  O how great, how grave, I ask, can my woe and sorrow be?
8  Just like the River’s swelling spring-tide waters
         rolling east to the sea.
Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)        譯者: 黃宏發
10th May 2012 (revised 15.5.12; 16.5.12; polished 14.5.13; 15.5.13)
Translated from the original - 李煜虞美人

1  春花秋月()何時了
2  往事知多少
3  小樓昨夜又東風
故國不堪回首  月明中

5  雕欄玉砌應猶在
6  只是朱颜改
7  問君能有幾多愁
8  恰似一江春水  向東流

*    The original poem is in two 4-line stanzas each made up of 2 rhyming couplets of different line-lengths in a  7-5-7-9 (characters/words) pattern.  The length pattern and rhyme scheme of the whole poem can be diagrammatically represented as 7A/ 5A/ 7B/ 9B// 7C/ 5C/ 7D/ 9D//.  In my English rendition, I have adhered to the AABB/CCDD rhyme scheme.  For line-length, I have used hexameter (6 beats) for the four 7-character lines, tetrameter (4 beats) for the two 5-character lines, and octameter (8 beats) for the two 9-character lines.  Here, the octameter (rare in English poetry) is made less breathless by breaking it up into a pentameter (5-beat) line followed by a trimester (3-beat) line.  This, in essence, accords with the natural reading of the original poem’s 9-character line as a line of 6 plus 3 characters.
*    Line 1:  I had originally rendered it as “Spring flow’rs then autumn moon: O when will the cycle end?” which lays bare (with the addition of the word “cycle”) an interpretation akin to Hawkes’ “seasons still roll on” (David Hawkes, p. 30 in  Alice W. Cheang ed. “A Silver Treasury of Chinese Lyrics”, Hong Kong: Renditions of The Chinese University Press, 2003) and also similar to Msckintosh and Ayling’s “cease their come and go” (Alan Ayling and Duncan Mackintosh, p. 63 in their “A Collection of Chinese Lyrics”, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965), but have now decided to retain all the ambiguities of the original poem, thus “Spring flowers and autumn moon, O when will all these end?”
*    Line 2:  I had originally penned “Of my past, how much I comprehend?” but have decided that “How much of my past I comprehend?” sounds much better.  For the word “comprehend”, both “com-” and “-hend” should be read stressed.
*    Lines 1 and 2:  I have faithfully translated both lines as rhetorical questions.
*    Line 3:  I had considered adding “from home” and make the second half of the line to read “from home the east wind came”, but have decided for “the vernal east wind came” to make clear that the “east wind” 東風 in the line refers to “spring wind”.
*    Line 4:  I have taken 月明中 to mean “in moonlight there and then” (where the poet was supposed to be).  I have, therefore, rejected interpreting 故國月明中 as “moonlit homeland” and have reversed the order of 月明中 “In moonlight” (from the end to the front to begin the line) and 故國 “my homeland rid of my name” (from the front to the end to end the line).  I had considered “a homeland stripped of my name”, “a homeland now rid of my name” and “my homeland I lost in shame”, and have now decided for “my homeland rid of my name”.  I had considered turning the line into a rhetorical question by translating 不堪 “I could not bear” as if it were 何堪 “how could I bear” but have decided to be faithful to the original line 4 which concludes the first stanza of the poem.
*    Line 5:  I had originally penned “Carved railings and jade steps” following the original order, but have new decided for “Jade steps and carved railings”.  I have taken 應猶在 to mean “I think must still be there” and have therefore used “may” instead of “must” or “should”.  I have added “as ever” primarily to complete the hexameter (6-beat) line, which fortuitously adds weight to the idea that “steps and railings” do not change in contrast to “the faces fair” in line 6.
*    Line 6:  The 2 words “changed” and “are” should be read stressed to make the line tetrametric (4-beat).  The word “changed” can be read in 2 syllables as “chan-ged” or at least elongated.
*    Line 7:  I had originally used the far from literal “how far, how wide” to translate 幾多 (how many/much) but have now decided for “how great, how grave” which is closer to, though still not, the literal meaning. 
*    Line 8:  I had considered “’Tis just like” and “’Tis like”, but have decided for “Just like”.  I had originally penned “a river of swollen spring flood waters”, but have now decided for “the River’s swelling spring-tide waters” (with “swelling” chosen over “swollen” for the sound, and “spring-tide” chosen over “spring flood” to suggest a lot of water but not to the extent of flooding)..  I have interpreted 一江 not as “a river” or “one river” but as “the whole River”.  “R” is capitalized because it refers to the mighty 長江 (Long/Grand River) or 揚子江 (Yangtse River) on whose south bank stands the poet’s former imperial capital.  At the end of the line and the poem, I have added “to the sea” (not in the original) to complete the “be (7), sea (8)” rhyme..
*    Lines 7 and 8:  If, after all, “how far, how wide” is considered more appropriate, the lines may read:
7    O how far, how wide, I ask, do my woes and sorrows go?
8a   Just like the River’s swelling springtide waters

8b      forever eastwards flow.


02 September 2013

崔顥 Cui Hao: 長干曲 兩首 Song of Changgan (2 of 4 poems)

Following my August post of a Chinese love poem of the 13th century, I am posting today 2 more Chinese love poems of the 8th century by the Tang dynasty poet Cui Hao, which I have recently translated.  Cui Hao had written a total of 4 poems of the same title.  These 2 are the more popular ones and are complete in telling the story of the beginnings of a courtship with the woman of Hengtang (part of Changgan) taking the initiative in Song I and the man, in Song II, responding gingerly (but not unfavourably) as he, though born in Changgan, now lives in Jiujiang some distance away.  I now give you my rendition of Cui Hao's originals:- 

A. Cui Hao (704?-754):  Song of Changgan I (The Woman's Song) 

1  (Yourself and folks, sir, where do you live?)
   Your folks, yourself, sir, where do you live?  (revised 3.9.13)
2  Myself I live, sir, in embanked Hengtang.
3  I’m staying my boat to ask you this, we
4  May well belong to the same home town.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
24th June 2013 (revised 25.6.13; 26.6.13; 27.6.13; 28.6.13; 29.6.13; touched up 28.8.13)
Translated from the original - 崔顥:  長干曲(行) 其一

1   君家何處住
2   妾住在橫塘
3   停船暫借問
4   或恐是同鄉

Notes on A: Song I (The Woman's Song):-
*    This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original. 
*    Title:  Changgan 長干 is the district along the Qinhuai River 秦淮河 (in present day Nanjing 南京, Jiangxu Province 江蘇省).   or  means “song”.  The title of the poem “Song of Changgan” refers to a verse (words or lyrics) written to the music or tune of the song.  The poet had written 4 poems of the same title, this being the first which is supposed to be the song of a woman.  I have, for clarity, added to the title “The Woman’s Song” in brackets.
*    Line 1:  I have rendered  not as “home” but as “folks”.  I have translated  simply and literally as “live”. The word “sir” translates  more or less perfectly.  Both the original  and the translation as “sir” are masculine and serve to hint at but not really revealing the feminine identity of the person speaking. 
*    Line 2:  The word  (together with the word  in line 1) in the Chinese original fully reveals the speaker’s feminine identity.  As I am unable to find an equivalent for  in English, I had considered “I’m a girl who lives, sir,” but found it inadequate as the female concerned could be a “spinster”, “widow” or any sort of “woman”.  I have, therefore, decided for “Myself I live, sir” hoping that the mere repetition of the word “sir” will work the magic of further strengthening the hint suggested in line 1, if not completing it.  As for 橫塘 “Hengtang”, it was the name of a place in Changgan (in present day Nanjing) along the Qinhuai River where embankments had been built and so named.  I had originally penned “in Hengtang renown” so as to complete the “renown-home town” rhyme.  I have now decided for “in embanked Hengtang” with the word “embanked” added to explain in the English rendition the meaning of 橫塘  despite the less than perfect rhyme of “Hengtang-home town”.
*    Line 3:  I had originally penned “I stay my boat just to ask you this” but have now revised it to “I’m staying my boat to ask you this,” with the word “we” moved up from line 4 to create an enjambment instead of end-lining it. .
*    Line 4:  I have translated 同鄉  as “the same home town”.  To make up the whole line, I had considered various combinations of “perhaps, maybe, may, may well” and “are from, have come from, belong to” and have decided for “(we) May well belong to the same home town” with the word “belong” suggesting a closer affinity.

B. Cui Hoa (704?-754):  Song of Changgan II (The Man’s Song)

1  I live in Jiujiang, or Rivers Nine;
2  To it and through it, a sailboat I ply.
3  From birth to youth we never met, yet
4  Natives of Changgan, both you and I.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者黃宏發
9th July 2013 (revised 10.7.13; 16.8.13; touched up 28.8.13)
Translated from the original - :崔顥:  長干曲(其二

1  家臨九江水
2  來去九江側
3  同是長干人
4  生小不相識

Notes on B:  Song II (The Man's Song):-
*    This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.
*    Title:  Please see my note on the Title in my rendition of Cui Hao’s “Song of Changgan I (The Woman’s Song), this being “II (The Man’s Song)”.
*    Line 1:  Jiujiang 九江 is in present day Jiangxi Province 江西省 on the south-west border of the Jiangxu Provinve 江蘇省 where Nanjing 南京 and Changgan長干 are located.  Literally, the line should be “My home is by the waters of (a place called) Jiujiang (nine rivers)” which effectively means “My home is in Jiujiang” or simply “I live in Jiujiang”.    I have, therefore, rendered it as “I live in Jiujiang, or Rivers Nine)” with “I live” instead of “My home is” to translate and with “or Rivers Nine” added to explain the name of Jiujiang which also helps to compensate for the omission of “the waters of” in my rendition.  I had considered adding “now” to “I live … in Jiujiang …” to make clear that the man no longer lives in Changgan, but have decided against it.
*    Line 2:  I have again taken Jiujiang 九江 to be a place and not, literally, nine rivers, and have refrained from repeating it but have translated it simply as “it”.  來去 is effectively translated by “ply” together with “To it and through it”.  I had considered “To it and from it” but have decided for “through it” hoping this will somehow cover the word “by the side of”.  I have added “a sailboat” which, though not present in the original, is implied in the context and is required to complete the 4-beat meter.
*    Lines 3 and 4:  I have reversed the order of these 2 lines primarily to complete the “ply-I” rhyme, but       also to strengthen my optimistic interpretation of lines 3 and 4. These 2 songs (the woman’s Song I and this, the man’s Song II) are clearly courting love songs.  To further strengthen this interpretation, I have added the open-ended word “yet” instead of the rather neutral if not pessimistic “though” to link up the 2 lines.  生小 is rendered as “from birth to youth” and 不相識, simply as “we never met” instead of the literal “never knew each other/one another” which will make it sound  impersonal and aloof..