04 May 2016

王梵志 Wang Fanzhi: 無題 (1- 梵志翻著襪) Untitled (1- My socks, Fanzhi's, worn inside out)

Today I am posting another "not so elegant" poem by the early Tang dynasty Buddhist monk Wang Fanzhi.  No title is given to the poem, and I have used the first line, put in brackets, as its title, similar to his other poem which I posted here in May 2015 putting in brackets the first line Other men ride high on horses.  The moral of that poem is "Be content!" while this poem, "Be oneself!  Never mind the worldly ways!"  I do hope you will enjoy it.

Wang Fanzhi (592? – 670?): Untitled (1- My socks, Fanzhi’s, worn inside out)

1    My socks, Fanzhi’s, worn inside out;
2    Everybody says it’s wrong.
3    I’d rather have them prick your eyes,
4    Than let them hurt my feet daylong.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
22nd April 2015 (29.4.15; 7.5.15; 21.5.15)
Translated from the original - 王梵志: 無題 (1- 梵志翻著襪)

1    梵志翻著襪
2    人皆道是錯
3    乍可剌你眼
4    不可隱我脚


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English is a tetrameter (4 beats or feet) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.  (line 2) and (line 4), which do not rhyme in current Chinese pronunciation, did rhyme in the Tang dynasty as belonging to 入聲 Entering Tone 藥韻 “Yao (Cantonese Yeuk)” Rhyme. (My speculation: and were pronounced “tsok” and “gok” respectively.)   In addition to this tetrametric rendition, I have also done an alternative ballad rendition which is given at the end of these notes.

*Line 1:  翻著, the colloquial for 反穿, is literally “wear (something) inside out”.  “socks”, in the Tang dynasty, were everyday boot-like light shoes without a hard sole worn informally.  In order to make clear that these were shoes and not socks, I had originally wanted to translate it as “light shoes”, “soft shoes”, “cloth shoes”, “slip-on shoes”, “slip-ons”, “slippers” and even coined ones such as “sock-shoes” and “shoe-socks”.  But have found them inappropriate and have decided to stick to “socks”.  This literal translation of as “sock” closely approximates English usage in the past.  The Shorter Oxford defines “Sock” as “1.  A covering for the foot, of the nature of a light shoe….. Now rare or obsolete” and “3.  A light shoe worn by comic actors on the ancient … stage”.  I had originally penned the line as “Fanzhi’s socks, worn inside out”, then considered “I wear my socks, the inside out”, “Fanzhi’s, my socks, worn inside out” and “Me Fanzhi’s socks, worn inside out” and have finally decided for “My socks, Fanzhi’s, worn inside out” which best captures the meaning of the line, viz. “I (Wang Fanzhi) wear my socks inside out”.

*Line 2:  I had originally penned “I’m wrong”, but have now decided for “it’s wrong”.  I think this makes it a lesser offence.

*Lines 3 and 4:  乍可 in line 3 means寧可 “would rather” and is translated, together with 不可 “not/no” in line 4, as “I’d (would) rather … /Than …..”.
*Line 3:  To translate “prick/dazzle  你眼 “your eyes”, I had considered “poke you in the eyes” (Jake Holman, web search “Jake Holman’s Selection of Favourite Chinese Poems Page 5”, 3rd poem), “an eyesore” (Eugene Eoyang, poem #6 on p. 84 in Wu-chi Liu & Irving Yucheng Lo, “Sunflower Splendor”, Bloomington: Indiana Univ. 1985, Midland ed. 1990), “offend your eyes” (a perfect equivalent, but colourless), “poke at your eyes” (a variation of Holman’s above) and, simply, “hurt your eyes”, and have now decided for “prick your eyes” (metaphorically, not physically). 

*Line 4:  Contrary to Eugene Eoyang’s “Than hide my feet under a bushel” (op. cit.) and Jake Holman’s “Than cover up my feet” (op. cit.), the word should not be taken to mean “hide/cover up”, but “cause pain/suffering”, e.g. 民隱 “people’s pain/suffering. The “pain” here, or just “discomfort”, is caused by the rough and hemmed in side of the cloth material of such socks being worn properly in, so as to show off on the outside the smooth side of the material.  I have, therefore translated it as “hurt”.   To end the line, I have added “daylong (the whole day long)” to rhyme with line 2 (“wrong”).  The addition is reasonable as such socks were worn as informal daytime shoes.
*Alternative Rendition in Ballad Form:
1    My socks, Fanzhi’s, worn inside out,
2    Ev’ryone says it’s wrong.
3    I’d rather have them prick your eyes,
4    Than hurt my feet daylong.

04 April 2016

于謙 Yu Qian: 石灰吟 The Limestone Rhyme

Today, I am posting my rendition of a quatrain by the 15th century Ming 明 dynasty poet Yu Qian 于謙 entitled "The Limestone Rhyme" 石灰吟.  The poem is simple enough.  It uses the analogy of limestone turned lime to whiten the world (even at the expense of one's own life) to air one's noble aspirations to serve his country  

The last 2 lines of the poem have recently been used by the University of Hong Kong's "Students' Strike Organising Committee" to entitle their 29 January 2016 statement in Chinese made in response, inter alias, to the University's governing Council's refusal to accede to their demands at the Council meeting on the 26th and to the Council Chairman Prof. Arthur Li's accusations made at a press conference on the 28th. http://www.inmediahk.net/node/1040315 

Their version of the 2 lines 粉身碎骨渾不怕 但留清白在人間 differs slightly from my 粉骨碎身渾不怕 要留清白在人間, but the message is the same: "My bones be crushed, body severed, /shall brave it all, and more, //To leave behind an impeccable white /to remain with humankind."  My young friends, I salute you. 

I am not here to discuss the rights and wrongs in this controversy.  But there is a saying which goes: "The road to hell is often paved with the best of intentions."
I am inclined to ask: given the best of intentions, have you, young students, ever considered that your demands and actions may not be right?  Similarly, but much more importantly (as power and duty commensurate), I am asking: given the best of intentions, have you, Chairman and Members of the governing Council, ever considered that your views and decisions/actions could be wrong?  My older friends, is it really so hard to admit that, as no man is infallible, one could be wrong?

I pray we will all take the right actions to whiten and brighten our tomorrow. Here goes my rendition of the poem:- 

Yu Qian (1398-1457): The Limestone Rhyme

1    Pounded, chiselled myriad times, deep in the hills I was mined;
2    Be burned and blazed in raging fire is but nothing, to my mind.
3    My bones be crushed, body severed, shall brave it all, and more,
4    To leave behind an impeccable white to remain with humankind.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
12 February 2016 (revised 14.2.16; 15.2.16; 16.2.16; 17.2.16; 18.2.16; 19.2.16; 18.3.16; 21.3.16)
Translated from the original - 于謙: 石灰吟

1    千錘萬鑿出深山
2    烈火焚燒若等閒
3    粉骨碎身渾不怕
4    要留清白在人間


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a 7-character quatrain with a rhyme scheme of AAXA.  This English rendition is in heptameter (7 feet or beats) with the same rhyme scheme.  The end rhyme of “mined” and “mind” in lines 1 and 2 respectively is less than perfect as the sound is identical.  I have dropped all the “I’s” and “my’s” in this rendition, making it possible to read the poem as in the first person (referring to oneself as “lime”), or in the third person (describing/praising him/her as such), or even in the second person (presenting the lines to the “you” for being such) .

*Line 1:  “hammer, hammered” is rendered as “Pounded”.  For “chisel”, I have considered “dug”, “drilled” and “wedged”, and have decided for “chiselled”.  I have translated their respective adjectives “thousand” and “ten thousand” in combination as “myriad times” as both words refer not to numbers but simply mean “numerous”.  “come out, produced” is rendered as “mined” (“quarried”) for the rhyme .

*Line 2:  烈火 is translated literally as “raging fire”, and 焚燒 also literally as “burned and blazed”.  I had considered using “baked” for “blazed”, but have decided against it because of its food connotations.  It must be pointed out that what is blazing is not the limestone, but the furnace fuel.  (Lime is made by heating limestone or sea shells in a kiln to a temperature of over 1,000 degrees Celsius.)  For 若等閒 “I see/regard as unimportant/no big deal”, I had considered “is a trifle, to my mind”, “is a matter I care not mind”, “is a trifle I hardly mind” and “is a trifle I just don’t mind”, but have decided for “is but nothing, to my mind”.

*Line 3:  “crushed/ground into powder” “bones” is rendered as “My bones be crushed”, and “cut up” “body”, as “body severed”.  There exist versions of this poem which feature these 4 words as 粉身碎骨 (with “body” preceding “bones”) which is the more common formulation of this proverbial saying.  However, I venture to suggest that the more popular version of the proverb is a corruption of the original 粉骨碎身 (with “bones” preceding “body”) which had been in use as early as the Tang dynasty.  For (which means) “all” 不怕 “not afraid of”, I had originally penned “I fear not, O not at all” but, in order to bring out the very active and positive meaning hidden behind the expression渾不怕 and the word “want to” in the following line, I have decided for “shall brave it all, and more”.

*Line 4:  For 要留在人間, I had considered “To leave (or give or bring) to the world … for the sake of humankind” and “To paint (or wash) the world … for the good of all mankind”, but have decided for the more literal “To leave behind … to remain with humankind”.  For 清白 “clean (or pure), white”, I had originally considered translating it literally as “to leave … the clean, the white” or “to paint … all clean and white” as this poem was written by Yu Qian when he was purportedly just a teenager long before he was accused of disloyalty and executed by the Emperor Ying Zhong 英宗 whom he helped re-instated and, hence, any suggestion of “innocence” could be out of place.  However, the idea of “innocence” is ever present even in words such as “clean”, “pure” (even “white”).  I, therefore, moved on to consider “stainless”, “taintless”, “immaculate”, “unblemished” as alternatives to “clean” and “pure”, and have decided for “impeccable”.  The whole line 要留清白在人間 is now rendered as “To leave behind an impeccable white to remain with humankind”. 

07 March 2016

杜甫 Du Fu: 絕句 四首 其二 (1- 兩個黄鸝...) Quatrain, II of 4 (1- A twosome of golden orioles...)

Further to my January 2016 post on Wang Wei's "Pastoral Bliss, VI of Seven", I am posting for your pleasure another perfect example of parallelism in classical Chinese poetry.  This is a 7-character quatrain by Du Fu whose skills in parallel matching is manifest in the poem.  I hope you will enjoy my rendition of it as much as the original.

Du Fu (712-770): Quatrain, II of 4 (1- A twosome of golden orioles...]

1    (A twosome of golden orioles, in the verdant willows sing;)
      A twosome of golden orioles, from the verdant willows sing;
      (revised 22.3.16)
2    One flock of silvery egrets, up high to the blue sky soar.
3    West Range’s ancient snow caps, captured within my window;
4    East bound, the long-haul sail-boat, berthed outside my door.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
4th January 2016 (revised 22.1.16)
Translated from the original – 杜甫: 絕句 四首 其二 (1- 兩個黃鸝...)

1    兩個黄鸝鳴翠柳
2    一行白鷺上青天
3    窗含西嶺千秋雪
4    門泊東吳萬里船  


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a rare quatrain which features perfect parallelism, i.e. words and phrases in the odd number line are matched by words and phrases in the even number line which follows. The original is in 7-character lines with a rhyme scheme of XAXA.  In this hexameter (6 feet or beats) English rendition with the same rhyme scheme, I have attempted, with success, I hope, to reproduce Du Fu’s perfectly matching parallels.

*Line 1: To translate 兩個 I had considered “A pair of”, “A couple of” and just "Two" or "Twosome", but have decided for “A twosome of”.  For “yellow” in 黃鸝 “orioles”, I have used “golden”.  [Added 22.3.16:  I had originally penned "in the verdant willows sing" but have now decided for "from the verdant ..."]

*Line 2:  For “one” in , I had considered “A …” but have decided for “One …” which better matches “A twosome” in line 1.  I have rendered “line, row, file” as “flock” as I am not sure if egrets at all fly in lines.  For “white” in 白鷺 “egrets”, I have used “silvery” to better match “golden” in line 1.

*Line 3: For 千秋 “thousand autumns (years), I had originally penned “ageless/timeless”, but have now decided for “ancient”.  “snow” is rendered as “snow caps” to make clear this is snow on the mountain tops of  the "West Range" 西嶺窗含 is rendered as “captured within my window” (rather than the beautiful formulation of “framed within my window”) so as to capture the consecutive repetition of the “cap” sound.

*Line 4:  萬里 “ten thousand li’s (miles)” “ship(s)” is rendered as “the long-haul sail-boat”.  I had originally penned "the long-haul sail-boats" but have now rejected it for being too crowded and noisy.   “East” “a place called Wu” is rendered as “East bound” with “Wu” omitted.   “door” “berth” is rendered as “berthed outside my door” (rather than “moored outside my door”) so as to capture the alliteration of the “b” sound.

01 February 2016

盧綸 Lu Lun: 塞下曲 六首 其四 (1- 野幕敝瓊筵) Border Song, IV of 6 (1- A sumptuous banquet...)辜

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 6 (1- A sumptuous banquet is spread...)

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)
      Hills and rivers a-swaying to drum-beats' thundering blare.
      (revised 18.2.16)
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  


*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 rendered 雷鼓動 as “swaying to the drum-beats’ thundering blare” [added 7.2.16: now revised to "to the drums' thundering blare"] [added 18.2.16: now further revised to "a-swaying to drum-beats' thundering blare" and "rivulets" amended to read "rivers".].

02 January 2016

王維 Wang Wei: 田園樂 七首 其六 Pastoral Bliss, VI of 7

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 7

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


*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


*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”.