04 January 2019

李清照 Li Qingzhao: 如夢令 Ru Meng Ling ('As If Dreaming' Song) (1- 昨夜雨疏風驟) (Last night the rains were sparse ...)


Last month (December 2018), I posted here my rendition of Li Qingzhao's most famous "tune lyric" or "ci" 詞 to the tune of Sheng Sheng Man 聲聲慢 ('Note after Note' Slow Song).  I am quite disappointed that after one whole month, there had only been 98 visits, probably due to the length of both the poem and my notes.  I am grateful to Ray Heaton for his learned comment on my rendition which I will respond to shortly.

Today, I am posting my rendition of another "tune lyric" by this great poetess Li Qingzhao of the (North then South) Song 宋 dynasty.  This lyric is to the tune of Ru Meng Ling 如夢令 ('As If Dreaming' Song) which is short with 33 words in 2 stanzas of 23 and 10 words.  I hope this short poem will serve as an appetizer whetting your appetite for the works of Li Qingzhao and proceed to the "Note after Note' Slow Song posted last month. 


Li Qingzhao (1084-1151): Ru Meng Ling ('As If Dreaming” Song) (1- Last night the rains were sparse …)

1   Last night the rains were sparse, the winds, gusty;
2   A deep sleep clears not the wine still remnant in me.
3   I ask of the one who rolls up the blinds, who
4   Just says: “Flowery as ever --- that begonia tree.”

5   “Know, not? Oh, silly!
6   Know, not? Dear me!
7   (Its reds must have thinned out, its greens, now fleshy.”)
     Her reds must have thinned out, her greens, now fleshy." (revised 9.1.19) 

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
14 December 2018 (revised 16.12.18; 19.12.18; 20.12.18; 9.1.19)
Translated from the original – 李清照: 如夢令 (1- 昨夜雨疏風驟)

1   昨夜雨疏風驟
2   濃睡不消殘酒
3   試問捲簾人
4   卻道海棠依舊

5   知否
6    知否
7    應是綠肥紅瘦

Notes:-

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a long-short lined “lyric” or “ci” to the tune of 寄調 Ru Meng Ling 如夢令 (“As If Dreaming” Song) which, strictly, is not a tune (as the music is lost), but a “lyric pattern”.  Here, it is in 2 stanzas or halves with 23 characters in the first and 10 in the second.  This English rendition faithfully follows the same long-short lined lyric pattern, but with a count of feet or beats (not syllables) to determine the length of the lines.  The long-short line-length pattern of the original is: 6-6/5-6// 2-2-6//.  In this English rendition, I have shortened the four 6-character lines into 5-beat lines and the one 5-character line into a 4-beat line, keeping the two 2-character lines as 2-beat lines.  The line-length pattern of this English rendition is, thus: 5-5/4-5// 2-2-5.  (Please note I have used, for the line-length pattern here and for the rhyme scheme below, the single slash to represent the end of a sentence and the double slash, the end of the stanza.)  The original adopts one single rhyme throughout the poem with a rhyme scheme of: AA/xA// AAA//.  Unable to find a single perfect rhyme (as there are far fewer rhyme words in English than Chinese), I have in this rendition used the assonantal rhymes of “i” (unstressed, viz. gusty -1, silly -5, fleshy -7) and “ii” (stressed, viz. me -2, tree -4, me -6).
*Line 1:  Although can be interpreted to mean 疏放 (unbridled) or 疏狂 (uninhibited), I have decided for the plain meaning of 稀疏 (scanty) so as not to produce a scene of 狂風暴雨 (stormy wind and rain) which, in my view, is not what the poetess wanted to say, hence, my “the rains were sparse, the winds, gusty”.

*Line 2:  濃睡  is rendered as “A deep sleep” after considering “A good sleep” and “Slumbering”.  不消 is rendered as “clears not” after considering “dispels not”.  殘酒 does not mean leftover wine, but refers to the effects of wine remaining in the body, hence, my “the wine still remnant in me”.

*Line 3:  (try) (ask) means “politely ask”, and not “try to ask”, hence, my “I ask (=enquire) of …”.  捲簾 is rendered as “who rolls up the blinds”.  Here in 捲簾人 the word does not specify a gender and is, therefore, rendered as “the one” (rather than “the maid” or “the page”).  This opens the possibility of scenarios other than “a woman in her boudoir”, e.g. “a man in his chambers”, “the man rolls up the blinds, the woman asking”, or “the woman rolls up the blinds, the man asking”.

*Line 4:  卻道 which is the reply to the enquiry, is translated literally as “who/ Just says”.  海棠 is rendered as “begonia tree” after considering “crab apple tree” which sounds less appealing.  依舊 is rendered as “as ever” (after considering “as before” and “as always”), and to this I have added “Flowery” (after considering “Handsome” and “Pretty”) to make sense of “as ever” and to highlight that this reply and the subsequent response to the reply are about flowers or the lack of flowers.

Lines 5 and 6:  知否 is translated literally as “Know, not?” (after considering “Know it, not?”) to mean “Do you know it, or not know it?”.  To lines 5 and 6, I have respectively added “Oh silly!” and “Dear me!” to satisfy the rhyme and the 2-beat line length, and to make the dialogue more conversational.

*Line 7:  For (green) and (red), I had originally rendered them as “green leaves” and “red flowers”, then decided for the literal “green” and “red”, and then further decided to render this literal translation in the plural as “greens” and “reds” to make it clearer that they refer to the leaves and flowers.  I have translated literally as “now fleshy” and (thin) as “thinned out”.  In order to complete the “i” and “ii” rhyme, I have reversed the order of the original line to end the poem with the word “fleshy”.  I had considered translating應是 (it should be, the truth is) literally to begin the line, e.g. “The truth is: its reds have thinned out, its greens, now fleshy” which sounds much like lecturing, and have, therefore, decided for the more natural and conversational “Its red must have thinned out, its greens, now fleshy.”

    

05 December 2018

李清照 Li Qingzhao: 聲聲慢 Sheng Sheng Man ('Note after Note' Slow Song) (首行 - 尋尋覓覓) (1 - O search, I search, and seek, I seek)

Today, I am posting my rendition of 李清照 Li Qingzhao's  詞 "ci" or tune lyric poem 聲聲慢 "Sheng Sheng Man" ('Note after Note' Slow Song), better known by the poem's first line 尋尋覓覓 which I have rendered as "O search, I search, and seek, I seek".

The poem was probably written in her later years after the demise of the Northern Song dynasty, her family's fleeing from the North to South of the Yangzi River, and her husband's untimely death, leaving her all alone with nothing but sorrow and woe.

As the poem is fairly long, and my notes even longer, I will simply invite you to read my rendition and notes and let me have your comments, kind or otherwise.

Li Qingzhao (1084-1151): Sheng Sheng Man ('Note after Note' Slow Song) (1 - O search, I search, and seek, I seek)

1          O search, I search, and seek, I seek;
2          Yet cold, so cold, alone, all lonely;
3          O sad, I’m sad, and down, I’m down; O bleak, so bleak!
4          At this a time when the clime, oft sudden, from warm turns chilly,
5          ‘Tis hardest to tend to my poor physique.
6          How could a three-or-twosome bowls or cups of wine
7          Ever withstand the gusty winds that, by evening, upon me wreak?
8          Migrating geese fly past,
9          Aching, breaking my heart;
10       Sweet old friends of mine, they were, they now, just squeak.

11        On the ground, yellow chrysanthemum petals pile thick,
12        All weary, worn and waned;
13        By now, O what of flowers are left for me to pick?
14        Watching by the window, alone---
15        O how I wish the hour of darkness: come soon, come quick!
16        (The phoenix tree, drenched now in fine drizzling mizzles,)
The phoenix tree, drenched now in fine mizzling drizzles, (revised 6.1.19)
17        (‘Tis evening, in tears, dripping:)
'Tis evening, in tears, a-dripping: (revised 6.1.19) 
18        (A dot, a dot, and a tick, a tick …)
A dot, a dot, and a tick, a tick --- (revised 6.1.19)
19        A time, O such as this,
20        How shall the one word ‘sorrow’ suffice, to bare a heart so sick?

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  譯者: 黃宏發
26th November 2018 (revised 29.11.18; 3.12.18; 5.12.18; 6.1.19)
Translated from the original - 李清照:  聲聲慢 (首行 - 尋尋覓覓)

1                尋尋覓覓
2                冷冷清清
3                淒淒慘慘戚戚
4                乍暖還寒時候
5                最難將息
6                三杯两盞淡酒
7                怎敵他晚來風急
8                雁過也
9                正傷心
10            卻是舊時相識

11            滿地黄花堆積
12            憔悴損
13            如今有誰堪摘
14            守着窗兒
15            獨自怎生得黑
16            梧桐更兼細雨
17            到黃昏
18            點點滴滴
19            這次第
20            怎一個愁字了得

Notes:-

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a long-short lined “tune lyric” or “ci” to the tune of 寄調 Sheng Sheng Man 聲聲慢 which is a “lyric pattern” (as the music is lost) in 2 stanzas or halves with 49 characters in the first half and 48 in the second.  This English rendition strictly follows the same long-short lined lyric pattern but with a count of feet or beats (not syllables) to determine the length of the lines.  The long-short line-length scheme of both the original and this rendition is: 4-4-6/6-4/6-7/3-3-6// 6-3-6/4-6/6-3-4/3-7//.  (Please note I have used, here and for the rhyme scheme below, the single slash “/” to represent the end of one sentence and the double slash “//”, the end of the stanza.)  The original adopts one single rhyme throughout the poem with a rhyme scheme of: AxA/xA/xA/xxA// AxA/xA/xxA/xA//.  Unable to find one single rhyme for the entire poem (as there are far fewer rhyme words in English than Chinese), I have in this rendition used the “-eak” rhyme for the first half and the “-ik” rhyme for the second.  Thus, the second half of the rhyme scheme in this English rendition should be represented as: BxB/xB/xxB/xB//.  You will also wish to note that in the original, the rhyme words are all in the “entering tone” 入聲 the sound of which (here, the ending “-k” sound) has practically disappeared in Putonghua 普通話 but is still very much alive in Cantonese 廣東話.  For example, (line 1) is pronounced “mik” in Cantonese but “mi” in Putonghua, and (line 3), “qik” in Cantonese, has become “qi” in Putonghua.  I am glad I have adopted the “-ik” rhyme for the second half of the poem which happens to be the single rhyme of the whole original poem read in Cantonese.  I am equally happy with the “-eak” rhyme for the first half, which is so close to the “-ik” rhyme.

*Lines 1 to 3:  These 3 lines of the original feature 7 pairs of re-duplicated words (characters) 叠字, and of these, 6 pairs are perfectly re-duplicated in my English rendition, viz. “search-search”, “seek-seek”, “cold-cold”, “sad-sad”, “down-down”, and “bleak-bleak”, with the remaining pair re-duplicated, perhaps less perfectly, in the stressed syllable “lone”, i.e. “alone-lonely”.

*Line 2:  冷冷清清 should be understood as in 冷清清 (empty, deserted, coldly treated, unfrequented), hence, the feeling of coldness and loneliness, not physically cold.  I have therefore rendered the 4 words as “Yet cold, so cold, alone, all lonely”.

*Line 4:  The phrase 乍暖還寒   is usually used to refer to spring, but is used here to refer to autumn which does have short spells of warm weather e.g. the Indian summer in North America and the Autumn Tiger 秋老虎 in China.  I have added “oft sudden” (not in the original) to clarify the nature of this climatic changeability.

*Line 5:  將息 is rendered as “to tend to my poor physique” with “poor” added for clarity.  最難 is translated literally as “hardest” after considering the grammatically correct “hard”.

*Line 6:  I have moved “How could” from line 7 to line 6 for line length considerations.  I suggest reading “How could” da-dum with “could” stressed.  淡酒 is translated simply as “wine” after considering and discarding the rather wordy “a light/pale wine”.

*Line 7:  怎敵他 is rendered as “How could (moved to line 6) … Ever withstand the (to begin this line 7)”.  Despite the existence of a 曉來 (come dawn) version of the poem, I have decided for 晚來 which is translated literally as “by evening”.  風急 is rendered as “gusty winds … upon me wreak” with “upon me wreak” (not in the original) added to make the poet the target of the winds’ vengeance.

*Lines 8 to 10:  I have decided for “Migrating … fly past” in line 8 and have added “they now, just squeak” (not in the original) to fully convey the poet’s feeling of loneliness to see her old friends, the wild geese, flying away just squeaking without stopping.

*Line 11:  I had considered but have now rejected shortening “chrysanthemum” to “‘santhemum” or “chrysanth”.  I suggest reading “On the ground” with “On” stressed.

*Line 13:  I have decided for “By now, O what of flowers are left for me to pick?” after considering “… are left I care to pick?”

*Line 14:  守着窗兒 is rendered as “Watching by the window” after considering “Watching out of the window”, and I suggest reading it dum-da dum-da dum-da with the word “by” stressed.  I have moved 獨自 “alone” from line 15 up to the end of line 14 to make line 14 a 4-beat line.

*Line 15:  怎生得黑 is understood as “How am I to bear/suffer the long, long wait for the hour of darkness to come?” and is rendered conversely as a wish: “O how I wish the hour of darkness: come soon, come quick!”

*Lines 16 to 18:  In line 16, 梧桐 is properly translated as “The phoenix tree”, 更兼 is rendered as “drenched now in”, and 細雨 elaborated as “fine mizzling drizzles”; followed by 到黃昏 “’Tis evening” in line 17 to which I have added “in tears a-dripping” (not in the original), to pave the way to the onomatopoeia of 點點滴滴 in line 18 which I have rendered as “A dot, a dot, and a tick, a tick ---” after considering “A drop, a drop, and a drip, a drip …” (or “drip drop, drop drip) which I regard as less than ideal despite the assonance of “-ip” and “-ik”

*Line 20:  一個 is translated literally as “the one word”, and is rendered as “sorrow” after considering “woe”.  了得 should not be understood as “how outrageous” as in the remark 還了得, nor “outstanding, extraordinary, great” as in 本事了得.  In my view, should be taken to mean “be enough or sufficient or able to”, and , to mean “to fully tell or conclude or settle or finish”.  了得, therefore, means “be enough to fully tell” and is rendered as “suffice to bare”.  The whole line 怎一個愁字了得 should, therefore, mean “how can the one word ‘sorrow’ be enough to fully tell of my woefulness” and is rendered as “How shall the one word ‘sorrow’ suffice, to bare a heart so sick?” with “a heart so sick” (not in the original) added to complete the “-ik” rhyme.  I suggest reading “How shall” da-dum with “shall” stressed. 



13 November 2018

杜牧 Du Mu: 赤壁 Red Cliff


Today, I am posting my rendition of a 7-character quatrain by the late Tang dynasty poet Du Mu 杜牧 entitled "Red Cliff".  I do hope you will find it interesting.  Here we go:-

Du Mu (803-852): Red Cliff

1  Sunken in sand a snapped halberd, its blade of iron remains;
2  I scrape, I scour to find it made in the warring Tri-Kingdom reigns.
3  Had the East Winds not risen, that Spring, to lend Zhou Yu a hand,
4  His wife Er-Qiao would have gone to Bronze Bird Tower in chains.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  譯者: 黄宏發
17 November 2017 (revised 6.11.2018)
Translated from the original - 杜牧: 赤壁

1  折戟沈沙鐵未銷
2  自將磨洗認前朝
3  東風不與周郎便
4  銅雀春深鎖二喬

Notes:-

*Form. Metre and Rhyme:  This English is in heptameter (7 feet or beats) to emulate the 7-character lines of the original.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.

*Title and Background:  The title 赤壁 “Red Cliff” refers to a river battle on the 長江 “Long River” or “Yangzi River” between “Wei” (220-265) on the one side and (or蜀漢) “Shu” (221-263 CE) and (or東吳) “Wu” (222-280) on the other, in the last days of the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220) when the 3 said kingdoms emerged vying for supremacy over the whole of China.  Thanks to gusts of east winds, the Wu-Shu alliance led by the Wu commander 周瑜 Zhou Yu downstream on the east, launched a fire attack on the Wei fleet upstream on the west, and won the battle.    

*Line 1:  is translated literally as “snapped” after considering “broken”.  未銷 (not wasted) is rendered in the positive as “remains”.

*Line 2:  自將磨洗 is translated as “I scrape, I scour”, and as “to find it (was) made”.  I have chosen to translate 前朝 (a former dynasty) by adding words which explain e.g. which dynasty, and why and what war.  I have considered “the last of Han dynasty days” which although is closer to the original’s “former dynasty, is still wanting in explanatory power.  I have now rendered it as “in the warring Tri-Kingdom reigns”.

*Line 3:  For 東風 (east winds), I had considered “the Easterlies” but have decided for the literal “the East Winds”.  不與周郎便 is rendered as “Had … not risen … to lend Zhou Yu a hand” with the name of 周郎 (Minister Zhou) properly spelt out as 周瑜 “Zhou Yu”.  I have moved 深春 (deep spring) from the original’s line 4 to the middle of line 3 of my English rendition with “, that Spring,” inserted.  This may not be entirely proper, but it tells us in no uncertain terms that this crucial battle happened in Spring, and there is no space for any reference to Spring in my line 4 in English.

*Line 4:  I have not interpreted 二喬 (two ladies named Qiao) to mean the 2 sisters: 大喬 (elder Qiao) who married 吳王 the King of Wu and or二喬 (younger or second Qiao) who married 周瑜 Zhou Yu.  I think the poem refers simply to the younger of the 2 sisters who accompanied her husband Zhou in the battle.  二喬 is therefore rendered as Er-Qiao with “His wife” added for clarity.  Both sisters were much admired and coveted by 魏王 the King of Wu 曹操 Cao Cao whose palace was 銅雀樓 the Bronze Bird Tower.    

31 October 2018

Jia Dao: Two 5-Character Quatrains 賈島: 五言絕句兩首

Today, I am re-posting my rendition of two 5-character quatrains by Jia Dao.  I hope you will love them as much as I do:-


A:  Jia Dao (779 – 843): The Swordsman

For ten long years, a sword I whetted,  
Its frosty blade, as yet, untried.
Today I hold it, unsheathed, before you;
Of you, to whom was justice denied?

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者黃宏發
4th May 2015 (revised 7.5.15; 18.5.15; 22.5.15)
Translated from the original - 賈島:  劍客

十年磨一劍
霜刃未曾試
今日把示
B:  Jia Dao (779—843): Visiting the Absent Hermit

Beneath the pine-trees, I ask of a lad I see.
Away is the master gathering herbs, says he,
Up in this mountain, but where? I cannot tell, 
For there the clouds are deep and dense as be. 

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黃宏發
17 March 2008 (revised 19.3.08; 7.7.08; 17.7.08; 19.7.08; 21.11.08; 25.11.08; 26.11.08)
Translated from the original - 賈島: 尋隱者不遇

松下問童子
言師採藥去
只在此山中
雲深不知處

12 October 2018

韋莊 Wei Zhuang: 寄調 - 菩蕯蠻 To the Tune of - Pu Sa Man


Today, I am posting my rendition of a "lyric" or "ci" 詞 by the late Tang dynasty poet Wei Zhuang who lived past the demise of the Tang dynasty in 907 and continued to serve as an official in the state of 前蜀 "Former Shu" till his death in 910.

I had originally, some 10 years ago, rendered the whole poem in hexameter (6 feet or beats), but have now revised it to accord with the original format of 2 long and 6 short lines format.  In this English rendition, the 2 long lines are in hexameter, the 6 short line, in pentameter.

Here we go:- 

Wei Zhuang (836-910):  To the Tune of - Pu Sa Man

1    They say Jiangnan the South Bank is truly fine and fair;
2    He, who has come to Jiangnan, grows old agreeably there.
3    Its waters, in springtime, are bluer than the sky;
4    In a gaudy house-boat, to the music of drizzles I lie.

5    She, by the wine-stove, gleaming just like the moon;
6    Her wrists, milk-white, as frost and snow bestrewn.
7    While yet un-old, I’d leave not for my home of old,
8    For to leave is to languish in heartbreak pains untold.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  譯者: 黃宏發
25th May 2007 (revised 11.6.2007; 23.7.2007; 3.9.2008; 5.10.18)
Translated from the original –

韋莊:  寄調 - 菩蕯蠻

1    人人盡說江南好
2    遊人只合江南老
3    春水碧於天
4    畫船聽雨眠

5    爐邊人似月
6    腕凝霜雪
7    未老莫還鄉
8    還鄉須斷腸

Notes:
 
*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English rendition is primarily in pentameter (5 
feet or beats) with the first 2 lines in hexameter (6 feet or beats).  This is to 
emulate the original’s 2 longer 7-character lines and 6 shorter 5-character lines.  
The rhyme scheme is AABBCCDD as in the original.  I am indebted to C.Y. 
Hsu 徐兆鏞 for the rhymes of “fair - there”, “sky - lie” and “moon - strewn” in 
his translation of the poem and regret I have forgotten the source.

*Line 1:  江南 is rendered transliterally as “Jiangnan” with the literal translation
“the South Bank” added.

*Line 2:  遊人 is not just any visitor/tourist, but someone who has been sent or 
has come to stay somewhere away from home, cf. 宦遊人, an official sent to 
stay away from home and the capital.  As the poem was written before Wei 
Zhuang became an official, it is therefore rendered as “He, who has come”.  只合
江南老 “grows old agreeably there” can alternatively be rendered as “will age 
agreeably there”.

*Line 3:  is rendered literally as “waters” to cover both rivers and lakes.

*Line 4:  畫船 (painted boat) is a house-boat of pleasure painted gaudily, and is rendered as “gaudy house-boat” after considering “painted house-boat”, “boat of pleasure” and “barge of pleasure”.  聽雨眠 is rendered as “to the music of drizzles I lie”.

*Line 5:  爐邊人 (person by the stove) refers to the maid waiting by the wine-stove (not any stove, nor the fireplace) and is rendered as “She, by the wine-stove” rather than literally “fire-stove” as the Chinese yellow rice wine is drunk warmed.

*Line 6:  晧腕 (white wrists) is rendered as “Her wrists, milk-white” after considering “pure white” and “cream white”.  凝霜雪 (congeal, frost, snow) is rendered as “as (with) frost and snow bestrewn”.  I am unsure if the word “with” can be omitted.

Lines 7 and 8:  For 還鄉 (return home), I had considered “… return not to my home …” for line 7, and “To return …” for line 8, but had decided for rendering the idea of “returning home” as “leaving Jiangnan” which being the essence the these 2 lines.

*Line 7:  For 未老 (not yet old), I have coined the word “un-old” and have rendered it as “While yet un-old”.

*Line 8:  I have rendered 斷腸 (severed guts) as “heartbreak pains untold” but am still wondering if "heartbreak" should be substituted by “gnawing” which is closer to the literal meaning of 斷腸 (guts severed, hence, gnawing pains).