Happy New Year 2015. Today, I am posting # II of Tang dynasty poet Lu Lun's six "Border Songs" (# I being posted here August 2014). I hope you will find this a little less learned and a bit more pleasant.
Lu Lun (748-800?): Border Song II of Six
1 Windswept, the dim grove of cattails shook so;
2 ‘Twas dark, the general still arched his bow.
3 Next dawn, for its hoary feathers they looked,
4 Sunk deep in a stone cleft was found his arrow.
Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
7th June 2013 (revised 10.6.13; 11.6.13; 12.6.13; 13.6.13; 14.6.13)
Translated from the original - 盧綸: 塞下曲六首 其二
* This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.
* Line 1: For 暗 I had considered “dark” but have decided for “dim”. 驚風 (in this context of 草驚風) should not be understood as an infantile illness of the heart and liver (with convulsions), but as 風吹草動 ”grass rustling in the wind”. I have, therefore, rendered 驚as “shook so”. I have translated 風 as “Windswept” which I find superior to “In the wind”. I had originally translated 草 simply as grass, but have come to realize that the grass must be rather tall to make sense of the poem and have decided for “cattails” rather than “tall grass”. My rendition of the entire line makes it clear that I take the word 林 “grove/woods/forest” to be a 草林 “grove of tall grass/cattails”.
* Line 2: For 夜 I have chosen “dark” over “night”. For 引 I had originally preferred the literal “drew” but have now decided for the more emphatic “arched”.
* Line 3: For 尋 I had originally penned “searched” but have now decided for “looked” to echo “shook” in line 1. For 羽 I had considered the technically correct “fletchings” (being feathers attached to an arrow’s shaft) but have decided for the literal “feathers”.
* Line 4: I have rendered 没在…中 as “Sunk deep in”. 稜 (also written as 棱) in 石稜 is a problematic word. It means the “edge” or “corner” of any substance and would not make much sense when qualified by 石 “stone” and used in the context of 没在…中. However, the existence of such expressions as 稜磳 稜層 稜角 all used in association with rocks and stones suggest 石稜 is probably an inversion of 稜石. I have, therefore, considered rendering it simply as “the rocks” but have now decided for “a stone cleft” which makes the arrowshot much more dramatic and poetic and which idea of a crevice is adopted by most translators. To end the poem, I have added “arrow” (which is absent from but implied in the original) so as to complete both the meaning of the line and the “so-bow-arrow” rhyme of the poem. As I need to add more words to complete the meter, I had considered variously: “all of the arrow”, “the entire arrow” “the head of the arrow”, “the shaft of the arrow”, “the shaft, the arrow”, “most of the arrow”, “O truly that arrow”, “the very same arrow”, “the self-same arrow” and “we found that arrow”, and have settled for “was found his arrow” which adds the least to the original.