This month, I am posting a classical long-short-line verse (ci or 詞) written by a contemporary and my rendition of it in English.
This beautiful little poem of 6 lines is by Tien Chi Chen or Chen Tien Chi (陳天機 in Chinese Putonghua pinyin Chen Tienji), Emeritus Professor in Computer Science and Engineering at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He first joined the University in 1979 (from IBM where he had served for over 2 decades), was concurrently Head of United College of the University 1980-88 and retired from the University in 1992, but has returned as Visiting Professor of General Education since 1998. Now that he is nearing his 2nd retirement (or 3rd, if one takes his leaving IBM also as retirement) at the age of 86, it is time opportune that I pay tribute to this extraordinary man and show the world his hidden literary prowess by posting this beautiful poem of his.
I have secured Tien Chi's permission to post this poem which he dated 16th February 2007 and which he sent me shortly by email. I volunteered to translate it into English which I completed on 20th May of the same year. Tien Chi has not said as much, but I have always taken it to be a love poem dedicated to his beloved wife Pearl (江獻珠).
I now offer to you Chen Tien Chi's love poem and my English rendition. Kindly share it with all friends of Tien Chi and Pearl and with all lovers of love poetry.
Chen Tien Chi (1928-present)
Tune of Ru Meng Ling (As If Dreaming):
The End of the Lunar Year, Drizzling Softly at the Scenic Egrets Pond
16th February 2007
1 O how I love the waters aqua, the mountains green,
2 On twigs and sprigs, softly, drizzle-drops first sheen;
3 Hand in hand, on the railing we lean,
4 Envy not the plumes and wings of the phoenix serene.
5 Drip drop, drip drop:
6 Tit-bits of spring-time's tidings of a brand new scene.
Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
20th May 2007 (revised 4.6.2007; 7.6.2007; 16.7.2007; touched up 16.9.2013; 23.6.2014; 4.7.2014)
Translated from the original Chinese - 陳天機 調寄 如夢令: 年晚小白鷺勝地微雨
* This English rendition follows the long-short line pattern of the original with
hexameter (6 feet) for the 6-character lines (lines 1, 2, 4 and 6), tetrameter (4
feet) for the 5-character line (line 3), and dimeter (2 feet) for the4-character line
(line 5). The rhyme scheme is AAAAXA compared to the original AAXAAA.
* Line 1: I had considered “waters blue” but have decided for “waters aqua”.
* Line 2: “On sprigs and twigs” now revised as “On twigs and sprigs”. The
word “sheen” here is a verb.
* Line 3: For闌干the word “balustrade” now revised as “railing”. For倚, I
had considered “recline” to make it possible to achieve the unrhymed X for line 3
(please see note above), but have decided for the more natural word “lean” which
makes this rendition deviate from the original rhyme scheme.
* Line 4: “Envious not of” now revised as “Envy not”, and “phoenixes”,
revised as “phoenix”. The word “serene” is added for the rhyme.
* Line 5: I had considered “A drib and a drab” , then penned it as “Drib-drab, drib-drab”, and have now decided simply for “Drip drop, drip drop”.* Line 6: I had considered “Tit-bits of spring-time’s good/glad tidings of a brand new scene” to somehow make up the 6-beat count for the line , but have now decided to drop the word “good/glad” and suggest that the word “of” should be read stressed.