01 February 2016

盧綸 Lu Lun: 塞下曲 六首 其四 Border Song, IV of Six

This is number 4 of Lu Lun's "Border Song", numbers 1, 2 and 3 having been posted here in August 2014, January 2015 and March 2015 respectively.  You may wish to also go back to these.  I do hope you will enjoy them.  Here goes number 4:-   

Lu Lun (748-800?): Border Song, IV of Six

1    A sumptuous banquet is spread, in the wild, the open air:
2    Our tribal allies have come, our hard-won victory to share.
3    (We dance in our battle armour, we drink, O let’s be drunk, with)
      We dance in battle armour, we drink, O let's be drunk, with
      (revised 7.2.16)
4    (Hills and rivulets swaying to the drum-beats’ thundering blare.)
      Hills and rivulets swaying, to the drums' thundering blare.
      (revised 7.2.16)

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
11th June 2015 (revised 12.6.15; 13.6.15; 7..2.16)
Translated from the original - 盧綸: 塞下曲 六首 其四

1    野幕敝瓊筵
2    羌戎賀勞旋
3    醉和金甲舞
4    雷鼓動山川  

Notes:-

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English rendition is in hexameter (6 beats or feet) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.

*Line 2:    ”Qiang”  and “Rong” are the ancient names of 2 ethnic groups friendly to the “Han” majority and are, here, translated as “Our tribal allies”.   “labour”   “victory” are translated as “hard-won victory”.    “congratulate” is translated as “have come … to share” to rhyme with “air” in line 1 and “blare” in line 4.  I had considered “our victory, our joys to share” but have decided for “our hard-won victory to share”.

*Line 3:  甲  is translated literally as “armour”.   As means both “gold” and “metal”. I had considered translating金甲 as “golden armour” or “metal armour”, but have now decided for “battle armour”.  For ”dance”, I had considered words such as “rollick” or “frolic” which are more appropriate for the occasion, but have decided for the literal “dance”.

*Line 4:  I have renderedgf 雷鼓動 as “swaying to the drum-beats’ thundering blare” [added 7.2.16: now revised to "to the drums' thundering blare"].
       

02 January 2016

王維 Wang Wei: 田園樂 七首 其六 Pastoral Bliss, VI of Seven

Happy New Year 2016.  Today, I am posting my translation of a beautiful little poem by Wang Wei. This poem is a rare "six-character quatrain" 六言絕句 (4 lines of 6 characters each), rare in that practically all classical Chinese quatrains are of five or seven characters.  In this poem, Wang Wei has shown that they can be equally, if not more beautiful.  

This Wang Wei poem further features “parallel matching lines” 對仗 which is not expected of “quatrains” 絕句 but required of the middle 4 lines (3 and 4, and 5 and 6) of the 8-line “octets” 律詩.  As can be seen from my rendition and notes, Wang Wei’s parallelism is thorough and complete.  Each line has 3 “2-character phrases” and each such “phrase” in a beginning line finds a perfect match in the succeeding line.


Wang Wei (701-761): Pastoral Bliss (Wang Chuan Six-Character Quatrain), VI of Seven

1  Peach-blows crimson, bearing the night’s drizzle drops, they glisten;
2  Willows so green, wearing the morning’s misty whiffs, they gleam.
3  Petals fallen, the gardener houseboy, his grounds as yet un-swept;
4  Orioles warbling, this man of the mountains still lies serene in dream.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黄宏發
24th October 2015 (revised 2.11.15; 25.11.15; 27.11.15; 3.12.15; 6.12.15)
Translated from the original - 王維: 田園樂(輞川六言) 七首 其六

1    桃紅復含宿雨
2    柳綠更帶朝()
3    花落家僮未掃
4    鶯啼山客猶眠

Notes:-

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English rendition is in heptameter (7 feet or beats) while the original is in 6-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.  In classical Chinese poetry, “6-character quatrains六言絕句 are rare, and Wang Wei is a great master of the art.  This Wang Wei poem further features “parallel matching lines” 對仗 which is not expected of “quatrains” 絕句 but required of the middle 4 lines (3 and 4, and 5 and 6) of the 8-line “octets” 律詩, both (quatrains and octets) being “regulated verses” 近體詩.  As can be seen from my rendition and notes, Wang Wei’s parallelism is thorough and complete.  Each line has 3 “2-character phrases” and each such “phrase” in a beginning line finds a perfect match in the succeeding line.

*Lines 1 and 2 (Parallelism): The first and third of the 3 “2-character expressions” in these 2 lines match perfectly in both the original and my rendition: 桃紅 “Peach blows crimson” and 宿雨 “the night’s drizzle drops” in line 1 match perfectly with 柳綠 “Willows so green” and 朝煙 “the morning’s misty whiffs” in line 2.  Although I have been able to use the equally perfect parallels of “bearing … they glisten” in line 1 and “wearing … they gleam” in line 2 to translate the perfect parallels of 復含 and 更帶 of the original, I have failed to faithfully translate in line 1 and in line 2 as will be explained in the notes to follow.

*Line 1:  “peach” in 桃紅 refers not to the plant, nor the fruit, but the flower, and is translated as “peach blows” which means but, here, sounds better than “blossoms”, “flowers”, or “blooms”.  “red” is rendered as “crimson”, a purplish red.  According to in Chinese, the colour of peach flowers “ranges from pale to dark pink or red, sometimes white從粉至深粉紅或紅, 有時為白色” while in English simply says “pink”, but on the web page of (which sells peach blossom juice) I found they are “pale pink with a deep magenta center” and magenta or fuchsia, like crimson, is purplish red.  The peach flowers in the poem must be either paler or darker pink with a crimson core, or simply crimson.  宿雨 “last night’s rain” is rendered as “the night’s drizzle drops” with “the night” referring to “last night”.  “keep in the mouth” or “contain” in 復含is rendered as “bearing”, and  “furthermore” is understood and is not translated.  Instead, I have added “they glisten” (not in the original) at the end to paint a picture of “crimson peach flowers glistening in last night’s rain drops” which, in my view, is the image the poet wishes to present.

*Line 2: I had originally penned “Willows verdant” to translate 柳綠 “willows, green” but have decided for “Willows so/new green” in order to capture the “ee” sound in “green” to go with “gleam” at the end of the line.   “morning” in () is preferred over “spring” as (a) with peach flowers and mists, spring is obvious without having to mention it, and (b) “this morning” is a better match word for 宿 “last night” in line 1.  “smoke” here means “mist” or, better, “smoke-like mists” and 朝煙 is therefore rendered as “the morning’s misty whiffs” to match “the night’s drizzle drops” in line 1.   ”carry” in 更帶 is rendered as “wearing” to parallel “bearing” in line 1.  And , like in line 1, both meaning “furthermore”, is understood and not translated, and instead I have added (not in the original) “they gleam” to parallel “they glisten” in line 1, presenting a picture of “green willows gleaming through the morning’s whiffs of mist”.

*Lines 3 and 4 (Parallelism):  The first and second of the 3 “2-character expressions” in these 2 lines match perfectly in both the original and my rendition: 花落 “Petals fallen” and 家僮 “the gardener houseboy” in line 3 match perfectly with 鶯啼 “Orioles warbling” and 山客 “this man of the mountains” in line 4.  Again, I have been unable to render equally perfectly the third matching pair, i.e. 未掃 “his grounds as yet un-swept” in line 3 and 猶眠 “still lies serene in dream” in line 4 as will be explained in the notes to follow.

*Line 3:  I have translated “flower” “fallen” as “Petals fallen”.  家僮 is rendered as “the gardener houseboy” to make clear this is the houseboy whose duties include the sweeping of the fallen petals in the grounds.  未掃 “not yet swept” is rendered as “his grounds as yet un-swept”, with “his grounds” (not in the original) added for the same reason as adding “gardener” to “houseboy” and in order for the line to make sense. As alternatives to the use of “un-swept” which is unorthodox, I had considered “… awaits a/his sweeping” and “… yet to be swept” but have decided for “… as yet un-swept” which is the closest to the original.

*Line 4:  For “crow, twitter, trill or sing” in 鶯啼, I have chosen “warbling” over “trilling” as the latter is too shrill and noisy, quite out of place in a scene so still, calm and serene.  in 山客 “mountain, and guest” should be understood not as “guest” or “visitor” but as simply  “man” as in 劍客 “swordsman” and 政客 “politician”; and山客 must, therefore,  be 山人 not “mountain man” but “man who lives in the mountains away from the community” or “recluse, hermit”.  I had originally penned “mountain recluse/hermit” but have decided for “man of the mountains” being the closest to the original.  As 山客 here ambiguously refers to the poet himself, I have chosen to render it as “this (and not, the) man of the mountains” making it possible for one to picture the poet pointing to himself when saying “this”.  猶眠 “still sleeping/asleep” is rendered as “still lies serene in dream” with “serene” (not in the original) added to make 7 beats, consistent with the other 3 lines and, seriously, to avoid an abrupt and possibly misleading ending.  I had considered “idly, at ease, easy” but have decided for “serene”.


*Lines 2 and 4 (End Rhyme):  I had originally penned line 2 as “drooping in the morning’s mists, they seem to weep” to end rhyme with “… still lies serene asleep” in line 4.  I justified my addition of the idea of “weep” (not in the original) and said in my original notes:- to present a picture of green willows drooping as if weeping in the morning mist, “weeping willow” 垂柳 (mistakenly named “salix babylonica” or Babylon willow) being native to and widely cultivated in China.  I have now decided to drop the idea of “weep” which can paint a totally different picture, and to add, instead, “gleam” to better parallel “glisten” in line 1.  For the end rhyme in line 4, I have now penned “in dream” which is equivalent in meaning to “asleep” and, hence, “… still lies serene in dream” in line 4 to end rhyme with “… the morning’s misty whiffs, they gleam” in line 2.


02 December 2015

王梵志 Wang Fanzhi: 無題四言絕句 四首 其三 Untitled 4-Character Quatrain, III of Four

Four-character quatrains of the Tang dynasty are rare.  Following my October 2015 post of Wang Fanzhi's untitled 4-character quatrain #2 "Worldly matters, we worry, weary (1st line)", I am here posting another, being #3 of his 4 such quatrains "The mountain clouds, by night, my curtain (1st line)".

This poem reminds me of a poem I posted here in January 2014, a 5-character quatrain entitled "In Reply to Someone" 答人, by an anonymous Tang dynasty poet who chose to call himself (or be called) the Supreme Hermit 太上隱者 (Taishang Yinzhe), which poem is reproduced below for ease of reference:-
*By chance to have come beneath the pines,
*With a boulder for pillow, I sleep care free.
*Blind, in these mountains, to calendared days,
*Care not, as the cold wanes, what year it be!

What a beautiful little poem by the Hermit!  Equally beautiful are these two 4-character quatrains (this and #2 posted in October 2015) by Wang Fanzhi.  But the knowledge that there are only 4 such 4-character quatrains under Wang's name and that these quatrains are markedly superior, in quality, to the other poems under his name, makes one wonder if these were not the works of some other poet who chose to be anonymous (like the Supreme Hermit) and somehow mistakenly attributed to Wang. What ever, I think it best not to pursue the matter.  Just sit back and enjoy it.  

Wang Fanzhi (592?-670?): Untitled Four-Character Quatrain, III of Four (The mountain clouds, by night, my curtain)

1    (Mountain clouds, by night, a canopy,)
The mountain clouds, by night, my curtain,
(revised 5.12.15)
2       Hooked to the crescent moon, a-spread.
3       I lie, I sleep 'neath vines and climbers,
4       With a slab of stone to pillow my head.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)
18 April 2015 (revised 30.11.15)
Translated from the original – 王梵志: 無題四言絕句 四首 其三 (山雲當幕)

1    山雲當幕
2    夜月為鉤
3    臥藤蘿下
4    塊石枕頭

Notes:-

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is, in my view, #3 of four 4-character quatrains.  Some prefer to refer to it as stanza #3 of a poem of four quatrain stanzas.  This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 feet or beats) while the original is in 4-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.  (Please note Wang’s quatrain #2 rhymes AAXA.)

*Lines 1 and 2:  In line 1, 山雲 is translated literally as "The mountain clouds", and although  “veil, screen, or curtain” should be understood as 天幕 "canopy",  it is also translated literally as "curtain" to avoid the tri-syllabic "canopy",   I had originally used "a" canopy (now curtain) which does not translate  當 "taken to be" at all.    I have now decided to revise it to read "my"  which conveys the meaning  of "I  take the clouds to be".  *The above from the beginning of this note re-written 5.12.15 to replace [[ In line 1, “veil, screen, or curtain” should, in this context, be understood as 天幕 and is translated as “canopy” and hence, although 山雲 can mean “mountains and clouds”, here it can only mean “Mountain clouds".]]  The idea of “night” has been moved from line 2 to line 1 as “by night” so as to allow me space in line 2 to add the word “crescent” to the word “moon” to make sense of the idea of “Hooked” in line 2.  To end line 2, I have also added the word “a-spread” (which, though not spelt out, is implied in the original in line 1 whether it is translated as “curtain” or “canopy”) to create a rhyme for “head” in line 4.

*Line 3:  臥 "lie" is translated as "I lie, I sleep" to indicate that he is lying down to sleep".  For 藤蘿 I had considered but rejected “wistarias or wisterias” (which is 紫藤) for being too specific and too beautiful a word and have, instead, decided for “vines and climbers”.

*Line 4:  For 塊石 I had originally penned “a piece of rock” but have now decided for “a slab of stone”.  Instead of taking 枕頭 or 頭枕 as a compound noun meaning “pillow (for the head)”, the word should be taken as a verb and it is most appropriate to translate 枕頭 as “to pillow my head”.

01 November 2015

李忱 Li Chen 香嚴閒禪師 Zen Master Xiangyan Xian: 瀑布聯句 The Cascade - Lines Jointly Written

Brian Ross Melchior, my son in law, passed away peacefully in bed on Saturday 7.45 a.m., 24 October 2015 at the young age of 35.  This English rendition of a 9th century Chinese poem "The Cascade" was written at Brian's death bed at home on Wednesday after he said to me, "I am ready!  I am ready!"  I revised it the next day and further on Friday the eve.  And it was read out (together with Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar") at Brian's Celebration of Life service yesterday (31 October) held at the Woodwind Farm (home of a friend Alice Altstatt), Finksburg, Maryland.

In celebrating Brian's life, the first 3 lines of the poem clearly refer to his untiring spirit, his lofty ideals, his inexhaustible energy, and the successes they have brought.  The last line, which is usually interpreted as "making waves for greater things to come", can be understood as "returning to be one with the ocean" or "one with God".    

Li Chen (810-859) and Zen Master Xiangyan Xian (?): The Cascade----Lines Jointly Written

1    (Down a myriad of rocky rapids, untiring, undaunted it goes,)
      (Down a myriad of rocky rapids, undaunted, untiring it goes,)  (revised 11.11.15)
      (O down a myriad rocky rapids, undaunted, untiring he goes;) (revised 29.12.15)
      Down a myriad of rocky rapids, undaunted, untiring he goes(revised 7.1.16)
      Down myriads of rocky rapids, undaunted, untiring he goes;
      (revised 1.1.16)
2    (And only when far one sees, ‘tis from high its fountain flows.)
      (Viewed from afar one sees, 'tis from high his fountain flows.) (revised 29.12.15)
      (And only from afar one sees, 'tis from high his fountain flows.) ((revised 11.1.16)
      Viewed from afar one finds, 'tis from high his fountain flows.
      (revised 19.1.16)
3    (No brook, no creek could ever----contain, constrain its flush!)
      No brook, no creek could ever----contain, constrain his thrust!
      (revised 29.12.15)
4    (In turn, it returns to the ocean, to surge and roll in billows.)
      In turn, he'll return to the ocean, to surge and roll in billows.
      (revised 29.12.15)

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黄宏發
21st October 2015 (revised 22.10.15; 23.10.15; 11.11.15; 29.12.15; 7.1.16; 19.1.16)

Translated from the original -  李忱 香嚴閒禪師: 瀑布聯句

1    千巖萬壑不辭勞
2    遠看方知出處高
3    溪澗豈能留得住
4    終歸大海作波濤

Notes:
-
*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English rendition is in hexameter (6 beats or feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.

*Author and Title:  禪師, an honorific for a Buddhist monk, is rendered as "Zen Master" and Xiangyan Xian is Zen Master Xian 閒 of the Xiangyan Temple 香嚴寺.  It is believed he was 李忱 Li Chen's older contemporary.  Li Chen later reigned as Emperor Tang Xuanzhong 唐宣宗 (846-859).  聯句 in the title, which I have translated as “Lines Jointly Written”, was a practice among poets in the old days, with one poet offering a line or two inviting (an)other(s) to complete the poem.  In this case, the Zen Master offered the first 2 lines and the yet-to-be Emperor, the second 2 lines and completed the poem while they were visiting Mount Lushan.  For the title proper, I have translated 瀑布 as “Cascade” which, in this context, is more appropriate than “Waterfall” as it is not about a waterfall, but about “water”, about water cascading all the way to the ocean.  [Added 29.12.15: I have now personified this "water" as it is obviously a metaphor of a "man" of lofty ideals on his way to pursue and accomplish his ideals, and have revised "it" (line 1), "its" (lines 2 and 3) and "it returns" (line 4) to read "he", "his" and "he'll return" respectively.  

*Line 1:  “thousand” and  “ten thousand”, either and both are meant to be “numerous” or ‘innumerable”, are translated as “a myriad” in that very sense.  “rocks” or “boulders” and “rapids” or “ravines” are also combined to form “rocky rapids”.   “Down” and “it goes” (not in the original) are added to create an image of a cascade which word appears only in the title, never in the poem.
 
*Line 2:  I have used the word “see(s)” to cover both “view” and “know” in order to avoid having 4 beats (feet) in the first half of the line.  [Added 29.12.15:  I have now revised "And only when far one sees" to "Viewed from afar one sees".]  [Added 11.1.16: I have now decided to revise it to "And only from afar one sees".]  [Added 19.1.16:  I now consider only" rather misleading and, in any case, too strong a word to translate 方 and have decided to translate the first half to :Viewed from afar one finds" which can cover both 看 and 知 and which adequately conveys the meaning of 方.  For the second half,] I had originally penned “from high, its source, it flows”, but have found “fountain” (“fountainhead”, too long) a better choice, hence, “’tis from high its fountain flows”. 

*Line 3:  For 溪澗 “streams, etc.”, I have chosen “brook” and “creek” for their “k” consonant sound.  For “keep” or “withhold”, I had originally used 2 rhymed words “contain, detain” to cover both permanent and temporary withholding.  I have now found “contain, constrain” even more attractive.  The rhetorical question of 豈能 “how can” in the original is turned into an equivalent categorical statement of “No brook, no creek could ever …..”  I have decided to keep the last word in the line of this English rendition (not in the original) as “flush” as originally penned after considering “rush” (suggested by Dr. Jessica L. McCarty-Kern) and "gush".  [Added 29.12.15:  I have now decided for "thrust" instead.]


*Line 4:  Although 终歸 as an expression also means “in the end”, I have translated the 2 words separately with as “in turn” and as “returns” as the context requires a “return” to the” ocean”, the “great sea” 大海, in the original.  To end the poem, I had originally considered “as surging, rolling billows”, then penned “to roll and surge in billows”.  This change from “as” to “to” makes the line much, much more active.  I have now refined it to “to surge and roll in billows” to bring the 2 “ou” sounds closer to each other.


    

13 October 2015

王梵志 Wang Fanzhi: 無題四言絕句 四首 其二 Untitled 4-Character Quatrain, II of Four

I had cited this poem in Chinese on 14 April 2015 in reply to Ray Heaton's comments on my rendition of Chen Zi'ang's "Song on Ascending the Youzhou Tower" 陳子昂: 登幽州臺歌 (my April 2015 post on this blog) with reference to the meaning of the expression 悠悠.  I said there are more than 20 definitions to the expression and have decided for "going on for a long time" for Chen's poem.

However, in this poem, the meaning should in my view be "numerous" and "multifarious" and, hence, "bothersome" and "troublesome".  Here is my English rendition of this untitled 4-character quatrain.  Does it not remind one of similar sentiments in:
(1) Li Bai's "Why in the Mountains" (my June 2011 post: http://chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.hk/2011_06_01_archive.html);
(2) his "A Summer Day in the Mountains" (my September 2014 post: http://www.chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.hk/2014_09_01_archive.html);
(3) Taishang Yinzhe's "In Reply to Someone" (my January 2014 post: http://www.chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.hk/2014_01_01_archive.html )? 

Wang Fanzhi (592? - 670?): Untitled 4-Character Quatrain, II of Four (Worldly matters, we worry, weary)

1       Worldly matters, we worry, weary;
2       Up in the mountains, we’d better be.
3       Green pines for shade, to filter the sun;
4       Blue streams, as ever, flow free and easy.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
16th April 2015 (revised 17.4.15; 18.4.15)
Translated from the original – 王梵志: 無題四言絕句 四首 其二 (世事悠悠)

1    世事悠悠
2    不如山丘
3    青松敝日
4    碧澗長秋

Notes:-

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is untitled and is a quatrain (4 lines) in 4-character lines, a line length preferred in the very ancient poems of the 詩經 “Book of Songs”.  This is either quatrain #2 of four such quatrains, or stanza #2 of a poem of 4 such quatrain stanzas.  I have taken it to be a free standing 4-character quatrain and have rendered it into English in tetrameter (4 feet or beats).  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.

*Line 1:  In this context,    does not mean “vast" and/or “lasting”, “immense” and/or “infinite”, and certainly not “leisurely”, but should mean “numerous” and "multifarious", hence, "bothersome" and "troublesome" and hence, my “worry, weary” or, if you please, “worry, worry” both aimed at replicating the repetition.

*Line 2:  I had originally penned “we’d rather be” (with “’d” for “would”) but have now decided for “we’d better be” (with “’d” for “had”)..

*Line 3: I had originally penned “Green pines above/abound” to begin the line, but had decided for “Green pines for shade,” to be followed by a verb to complete the meaning of 蔽日. I had considered variously “cover”, “hide”, “hide from”, “block”, “block off”, “ward off”, “dim”, “dampen” “shelter from”, “shut out”, etc.  But they all seem very negative towards the “sun”.  I have, therefore, decided for “filter” or, alternatively, “soften”.

*Line 4:  cannot be translated literally as “autumn” without becoming incomprehensible.  In this context of “blue streams (waters)” it can only refer to the quality of “autumn waters” and mean either “clear/limpid, hence, beautiful” which I can adopt, or “plentiful/abundant, hence continuous flow” which I prefer.  This interpretation, resulting in my “flow free and easy”, is based on 莊子 Zhuang Zi 秋水 Autumn Waters: “秋水時至,百川灌河 ’Tis the time of autumn waters, hundreds of streams flow into the River.”  (My rough translation).   

02 September 2015

王昌齢 Wang Changling: 出塞 二首 其一 To the Frontier, I of Two

Today, I am posting a poem which most would regard as a patriotic poem glorifying the Han (as an ethnic group) Chinese.  However, some would regard it as anti-war or, at least, desire for peace. What do you say?

Wang Changling (698 – 757): To the Frontier, I of Two

1   The same clear moon as in Qin times, same passes as in Han;
2   Men came from thousands of miles, their return ne'er ever began.
3   If only that Flying General, of Longcheng fame, were here,
4   No hostile horses dare cross----the border of Mount Yinshan.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
19th July 2015
Translated from the original - 王昌齢: 出塞 二首 其一

1   秦時明月漢時關
2   萬里長征人未還
3   但使龍城飛將在
4   不教胡馬度陰山

Notes:-

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English rendition is in hexameter (6 beats or feet) while the original is in 7-chracter lines.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.

*Line 1:  Qin and Han are 2 consecutive dynasties (221 – 206 BCE; 206 BCE – 220 CE).  These are ancient days even to those, the poet included, who lived in the Tang dynasty (618 – 907 CE).  Qin was the time when the Great Wall長城 was built or completed.  At the time, passes must have also been built.  I had, therefore, considered rendering the line as “A clear moon over the passes, as in the days of Qin and Han” which is what the line means.  I have, however, decided to follow the original formulation and separated Qin and Han, but with word “same” added twice to link the 2 dynasties so as to convey the idea that war had been going on for centuries ever since antiquity, hence, “The same clear moon as in Qin times, same passes as in Han”.

*Line 2:  萬里 “ten thousand ‘li’ (a Chinese unit of length)” is rendered as “thousands of miles” on the basis that one ‘li’ equals half a kilometer, 10 thousand ‘li’, 5 thousand kilometers or, very roughly, 3 thousand miles.  長征 is not interpreted as a “long march/expedition” as the poem is not about an expedition in offence, but reinforcements in defence, and soldiers would have been enlisted throughout the country, hence, my “Men came from”.  人未還 is rendered as “their return ne'er ever began” to rhyme with “Han” in line 1 and “Yinshan” in line 4.

*Line 3:  I have rendered 但使 simply as “If only … were here” and have taken 龍城飛將 to refer to Li Guang 李廣 and not to Wei Qing 衛青, both generals of the Han dynasty.  While the exact location and nature of 龍城 ”Longcheng” are matters yet to be settled, 飛將 ”flying general” unequivocally points to Li Guang who was in command in 右北平郡 “West Beiping Province” (in present day 河北 Hebei Province) which included Longcheng, and according to司馬遷 史記 (“Shi Ji” or “Historical Records” by Sima Qian), the Huns (Xiung Nu匈奴) referred to Li Guang as 漢之飛將軍 “Han’s flying general” and 避之數嵗,不敢入右北平 “avoided him for some years, not daring to enter West Beiping”.  龍城 is simply rendered as “of Longcheng fame”.


*Line 4:  refers generally to non-Han nationalities living in the north and west of China and is rendered here as “hostile” as, in this context, the Huns and the Hans were at war.  is literally translated as “horses”.  It is in both languages a synecdoche for 馬兵 or 騎乓 “horsemen” or “cavalry” and this meaning is further clarified by my translating as “hostile”.  I had considered “No … can cross” for 不教 but have decided for “No … dare cross”.  I have added the word “border” to make clear the nature of Mount Yinshan.