01 March 2015

盧綸 Lu Lun: 塞下曲六首 其三 Border Song III of Six

This month I am posting #3 of Lu Lun's 6 Border Songs.  Songs #1 and #2 were respectively posted here in August 2014 and January 2015.  In my January post, in my discussion with Ray Heaton and Frank Yue, I suggested that these 6 songs can be understood as 6 scenes in the life of an anonymous general.  Now that you have read three of the six, are you inclined to agree?  

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

1    A moonless sky, wild geese flown out of sight;
2    (The Huns beaten, their prince at night takes flight.)
      The Hun beaten, their prince by night takes flight.  (revised 3.3.15)
3    (Our cavalry light, all set and due to pursue;)
      Our cavalry light, all set to duly pursue----  (revised 6.3.15)
4    (Our bows and sabres, laden with snow despite.)
      Our bows, our sabres, laden with snow despite.  (revised 6.3.15)

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
15th May 2013 (revised 4.6.2013; 22.12.14)
Translated from the original - 盧綸塞下曲六首 其三

1    月黑雁飛高
2    于夜遁逃
3    欲將輕騎逐
4    大雪滿弓刀

Notes:
*    This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.
*    Line 1:  To translate 月黑  I had considered “Moonless and dark”, “The moon shrouded”, “A moonless night” and have now decided for “A moonless sky”..  I have interpreted 飛高 as 高飛遠走 or 遠走高飛 which literally mean “fly high” and “go far” but figuratively mean “out of sight”, hence, my “wild geese flown out of sight” for 雁飛高 instead of the literal “geese fly high”..
*    Line 2:  單于 is the title of a prince or chieftain of the 匈奴 Xiongnu (or Hun) nation and is translated as “The Huns … their prince” instead of the transliteration “Chanyu”.  is translated as “takes flight”.  I have added “beaten” which is not in the original but is implied in the word .
*    Line 3:  I have inversed the order of “light cavalry” 經騎  both for the daDUM (iambic)-dadaDUM (anapestic) meter of the line, and for the mid rhyme of “light” to rhyme with the end rhyme of “sight-flight-despite”. 
*    Line 4:  I had considered “heavy” to translate滿 but have decided for “laden”.  

07 February 2015

劉雪庵 Liu Xue'an: 踏雪尋梅 Over the Snow for Wintersweet Flowers

Following Tang poet Bai Juyi's "Flower No Flower" (白居易:花非花) which I posted in October 2014, today I am posting a second "sing-able" verse: "Over the Snow for Wintersweet Flowers" 踏雪尋梅, lyrics by Liu Xue'an 劉雪庵 and music by his music master Huang Zhi 黃自.  It was also Huang Zhi who composed the music for Bai Juyi's "Flower..." poem.

Again, I am grateful to my friend Charles Huang Yong 黃用 who is pursuing a similar hobby and has shared with me many of his renditions which have been a source of my inspiration.  He has, like me, chosen to translate the 梅 plum/mume here properly as 蠟/臘梅 wintersweet.  Please see my note on line 2 here in this post and my note on Wang Wei's "A Poem in Sundry Lines" 王維: 雜詩 posted on this blog in January 2010.

I have known this song all my life since primary school in the early 1950's, and rendering the lyrics into English gives me the greatest pleasure that I, for one, can now sing it in English.  The music is given (though not fully) at the end of the notes.  Please have a go at singing this tune, now in English. 

Liu Xue'an (1905-1985):  Over the Snow for Wintersweet Flowers

1    Snow wanes, the day so fine;
2    The wintersweet, sweet as wine.
3    On a mule, o’er the bridge,  
4    The bell goes tinkling-tine.
5    Tinkling-tine! Tinkling-tine!
6    Tinkling-tine! Tinkling-tine!
7    O flowers, gleaned for a vase of mine,
8    Be with me while I read or chime,
9    We’ll share a time divine.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者: 黄宏發
20th September 2014 (revised 22.9.14; 23.9.14; 24.9.14; 26.9.14; 27.9.14; 28.9.14)
Translated from the Chinese original - 劉雪庵踏雪尋梅

1    雪霽天晴朗
2    臘梅處處香
3    騎驢把()橋過
4    鈐兒響叮噹

5    響叮噹 響叮噹
6    響叮噹 響叮噹
7    好花採得瓶供養
8    伴我書聲琴韻
9    共渡好時光

Notes:
*Form, Meter and Rhyme:  The original is a 9-line rhymed verse (with A for rhyme A and X for unrhymed) but of varying line-lengths (number of words, which are monosyllabic in Chinese, marked in brackets), in a pattern of A(5)-A(5)-X(5)-A(5)-A(6)-A(6)-A(7)-X(6)-A(5).  This English rendition follows the same rhyme scheme and a similar pattern of line-lengths (counted in terms of feet or stresses or beats): A(3)-A(3)-X(3)-A(3)-A(4)-A(4)-A(4)-X(4)-A(3).  Since the original are the lyrics of a song, it is rendered with “sing-ability” very much in mind.                     
*Line 1:  I had originally penned “Snow wanes”, revised to “Snow’s waned”, but have now decided to revert to “Snow wanes”.  I had originally penned “the day is fine”, but have found “the day so fine” far superior whether sung or simply read out loud.
*Line 2:  /臘梅 should properly be translated as “wintersweet” (chimonanthus praecox) and not as “mume” or “plum” (prunus mume) which is the Japanese/Chinese .  They are different plants but have a lot in common: both native to China, have fragrant flowers, and blossom in winter.  Although /臘梅 is /臘梅 (wintersweet) and  is  (plum/mume), the latter, as a single word, may refer to either. Thus, the  in the title obviously refers to /臘梅.  I had elsewhere in Wang Wei’s “A Poem of Sundry Lines” 王維: 雜詩 (my January 2010 post) interpreted his 寒梅 “cold/winter plum flowers” to mean “wintersweet flowers”.  I have failed to translate the meaning of 處處 “everywhere/all over the place” and have taken it to be self-evident, but have been able to reproduce its reiterative beauty by repeating the word “sweet” in the line.  To the line, I have added the analogy of “as wine”, which is not in the original, for the “-ine” rhyme.
*Line 3:  should technically be “ass” or “donkey”, neither very pleasing to the ear.  I have, therefore, adopted  “mule”, a cross between a donkey and a mare, considering that it is like a horse but not a horse.  There are 2 versions of the third word: and .  I have chosen because is the proper name of a river and 灞橋過 (understood as 過灞橋) would mean “cross the bridge over the Ba River” which is unlikely to be the theme of the song.  I had originally penned “I cross the bridge” but have decided for “o’er the bridge”.
*Lines 4 to 6:  I am more than pleased to have rendered 響叮噹 as “tinkling-tine” with “tinkling” for the sound of the bell on the mule and “tine” for the pause in between.  This is not to say “tine” is not chosen for the “-ine” rhyme.
*Lines 7-9:  I have simply rendered line 7 as “O flowers, gleaned for a vase of mine” using the word “for” to translate, not literally, 供養 which term can mean either (1) “provide for” (e.g. 父母 “one’s parents” or someone dear) or (2) “enshrine for worship” (e.g. 神明 “a deity” or some adorable person/thing), or both.  And these last 3 lines of the song seem to indicate both meanings do exist: I will keep you well in a vase placed in my study to keep me company while I read aloud and play my lute, and we’ll have a good time together.  As such, it seems to me the best approach is to use “for a vase of mine” for line 7 and leave it to the next 2 lines to speak for themselves.  I had originally considered “With books and my lute for/in company” to translate line 8, but had rejected it as wrong as the line suggests the flowers (and not the lute and books) keeping the poet company.  I have, therefore, employed the structure of “O flowers . . .” in line 7 as the addressee and the “Be with me” in line 8 as the message addressed to the flowers, asking them to keep the poet company in his study while he reads and chimes. Please note “chime” is not a true “-ine” rhyme, but in any case, line 8 is unrhymed in the original.
*Line 8:  Although the line can be scanned and read as 2 trochees (DUM-da) followed by 2 iambs (da-DUM) making “Be with me while” read as DUM-da-DUM-da stressing “Be” and “me”, I suggest that it should be scanned and read as 4 iambs (i.e. a straightforward iambic tetrameter line which is what I have written) turning the same 4 words into da-DUM-da-DUM stressing “with” and “while”.  As the word “with” is, in my view, of crucial importance to the meaning of the line and the whole song, I strongly suggest it should be read stressed.  As for the second half of the line, I had originally penned “I read and chime” which appeared straightforward and unproblematic.   I now consider it flawed as it may be taken to mean the poet reading aloud and playing the lute at the same time (which no one can do) and have decided to use “or” instead of “and”.  This is to say, the company of the wintersweet flowers is all important whether the poet is reading or chiming or just relaxing in his study.
*Line 9:  I had originally penned “We’ll spend a time” with “We’ll” to translate and “spend” for .  Instead of “spend”, I have now decided for the word “share” which, in my view, best captures the idea of 共渡 but have decided to retain “We’ll” instead of revising it to “To”.  I have ended the line and the whole song in the “-ine” rhyme with the word “divine”, meaning “excellent in a superhuman degree, said of persons or things” (Shorter Oxford), “extremely good, unusually lovely” (Webster’s Unabridged).  Although this may be flawed for being informal (Webster’s) and colloquial (陸谷孫: 英汉大詞典), I will stick to it and take it to simply mean “heavenly” in the sense of “good, lovely” rather than “godly, sacred”.
*Music:  The music to the lyrics was composed by Huang Zhi (1904-1938), a famous composer in the Nationalist period (1911-1949).  The musical score in “numbered musical notation” (簡譜 jianpu) and the song lyrics in both English and Chinese are given below.  Please note that I have only put down the numbered musical notes (with “^” and “_” added to the number to stand for a higher and lower octave respectively), and the key signature (in this case, 1=E) and time signature (2/4).  Other information such as note length, musical rest, bar lines, etc. are omitted as I am unable to do them on my computer.  THE SONG follows:-

踏雪尋梅    Over the Snow for Wintersweet Flowers
: 劉雪庵    Lyrics by Liu Xuean (1905-1985)   
: 黄自     Music by Huang Zhi (1904-1938)

1=E    2/4
Snow wanes, the day so fine;
3              5        5    (5)  12   3
                             
The wintersweet, sweet as wine.
3       (3) (3)  6            5      12    3
                                   
On a mule, o’er the bridge,
3    5  1^7     3       6      5
                      
The bell goes tinkling-tine.
5_   (5_)   3      2     1     1
                      
Tinkling-tine! Tinkling-tine!
3      5      5        2     5      5
                
Tinkling-tine! Tinkling-tine!
3      5       5        5    1^    1^
                  
O       flowers, gleaned for a vase of mine,
1 3 5    1^           7            6    3 (3)     6   5
                                       
Be with me, while I read or chime,
5     (5)   12     3       4    5   (5)    5
                                
We’ll share a time divine.
5_       (5_)   3    2      1  1
                      時光

07 January 2015

盧綸 Lu Lun: 塞下曲六首 其二 Border Song II of Six

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
    
1        林暗草驚風
2        將軍夜引弓
3        平明尋白羽
4        在石稜中

Notes:
*    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 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 as “shook so”.  I have translated as “Windswept” which I find superior to “In the wind”.  I had originally translated 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 “grove/woods/forest” to be a 草林 “grove of tall grass/cattails”.
*    Line 2:  For I have chosen “dark” over “night”.  For I had originally preferred the literal “drew” but have now decided for the more emphatic “arched”.
*    Line 3:  For I had originally penned “searched” but have now decided for “looked” to echo “shook” in line 1.  For 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 as “Sunk deep in”.  (also written as ) 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 “stone” and used in the context of 没在.  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.

04 December 2014

孟郊 Meng Jiao: 遊子吟 Song of the Travelling Son

Today I am posting my latest translation----"Song of the Travelling Son" by Mid Tang poet Meng Jiao.  Because of its subject matter, mother's love, it is most famous and popular and is known to practically all literate Chinese. As this is also a much translated poem, I must record my disagreement with all translators who have rendered 遊子 in the title (and line 2) in a less than neutral way, e.g. “wayward”, “wanderer”, “wandering son”, “roving son”, “son out to roam the land”, “rover”, “roaming/wanderlust son", etc.

This is simply a poem about a son who is about to travel, his mother’s love for him, and his feelings of filial piety towards his mother.  The reason for his travel is not given, nor is the character of the son known.  It is, therefore, imperative to be neutral and to speak of the son as "wayfaring" or "journeying", and I have picked “travelling” for both the title and line 2.

I have also done a shorter version which appears at the end of my notes. Please let me know which version you like better.  Here is the original version of my rendition:-

Meng Jiao (751-814): Song of the Travelling Son - Written at Liyang on Mother's Arrival (added 13.12.14} 

1  Sewing-thread in hand, the loving mother;
2  Clothes for the son to wear, her travelling son.
3  On and on she sews, his leaving now nears;
4  Stitch on stitch, she fears----a delayed reunion.
5  (Oh! How shall the heart of a mere grass seedling)
    Oh! How shall my heart of a mere grass seedling  (revised 10.12.14) 
6  Ever repay the embrace of spring’s warm sun!

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者黃宏發
25th November 2014 (revised 26.11.14; 28.11.14; 1.12.14; 2.12.14; 4.12.14)
Translated from the original - 孟郊: 遊子吟 -  迎母溧上作 (added 13.12.14)    

慈母手中線
遊子身上衣
臨行密密縫
意恐遲遲歸
誰言寸草心
報得三春暉


Notes:-
*Meter and rhyme:  This English rendition is in iambic pentameter (5 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The original rhyme scheme is XAXAXA.  This rendition can only claim to have achieved it in a loose sense as “reunion” in line 4 does not perfectly rhyme with “son” and “sun” in lines 2 and 6 respectively, and the latter two are not rhymes at all since they sound the same. I said the meter is iambic (a weaker syllable followed by a stronger one: daDUM) for scansion purposes.  In this connection, please note all 6 lines are “beheaded” (initial truncation/catalexis, i.e. weaker syllable(s) in the beginning omitted) in that they all begin with a stronger syllable (DUM) which alone constitute one foot with the weaker (da) regarded as omitted on purpose.  I will stop here without going into other substitutions and variations.  
*Line 1:  “Sewing” is added to make clear the meaning of “thread” and to, so to speak, sew into “she sews” in line 3.  I had considered “Threaded needle” but decided against it.
*Line 2:  I had considered “Clothes to keep him warm” but decided “Clothes … to wear” is closer to 身上衣 “clothes on his body/back”.  I had originally penned “Clothes for him to wear, the travelling son” but have decided for “Clothes for the son to wear, her travelling son” to heighten the sense of the mother’s love for the son.
*Line 3:  I have taken 密密縫 not to mean “sewing closer and closer stitches” but to mean “more and more frequently she sews” on the basis that means, inter alia, 不疏 which can mean “not infrequent, i.e. frequent” in addition to “not far apart, i.e. closer”.  I could have penned “More and more she sews” with the repetition of “more” to translate the repetition of but have decided that “On and on she sews” serves the meaning better.
*Line 4:  遲遲 “late, late” is translated as “delayed” to make clear that the son is just a “traveler” and is no “wanderer/rover/roamer”.  The repetition of , in parallel with in line 3,  is represented by the repetition of an added word “stitch” in “Stitch on stitch” which, so to speak, sews into “Sewing” in line 1, “Clothes” in line 2, and “she sews” in line 3.  I have dropped the most natural and proper translation of as “return” and chosen “reunion” not because of rhyme (in any case, not a satisfactory rhyme as pointed out above).  It is because the word “to sew/stitch” in line 3 is a case of double entendre in Chinese as it sounds the same as “to meet”, hence “be together”, which meaning cannot be covered in line 3.  I have, therefore, decided for “reunion” over “return”.  I had originally penned: “Every stitch a wish, of a sooner reunion” but have decided to stay closer to the original, hence “Stitch on stitch, she fears----a delayed reunion.”
*Lines 5 and 6:  These 2 lines are a metaphor of the magnanimity of mother’s love (in line 6: 三春暉 “embrace of spring’s warm sun” and the incapacity of the son with a pious heart (in line 5: 寸草心 “heart of a mere grass seedling”).  The formulation of 誰言 “Who says” in line 5 and 報得 “Can repay in full/Can ever repay” in line 6 make up a question, in my view, a rhetorical one, hopefully, not leading to the bland, though cynical, yet true statement that “the son/seedling can never repay the mother/sun”, but to an exhortation to repay, requite mother's love.
*Line 5:  For the reason I have given in the note above, I have chosen to use “Oh!” and “How shall” to begin the line and translate 誰知 instead of “Who knows”.  For 寸草, I had considered variously: an inch of grass, a blade of grass, the sprouting grass, the budding grass, the inch-long grass, the inch-tall grass, a grass inch-ling, a grass seedling, etc. and have decided for “a mere grass seedling”.  For “heart”, I had considered qualifying “heart” with grateful, ardent, fervent, pious, etc. but have decided that “heart” alone suffices.  I had considered amending “the heart” to read “my heart” but have decided to stay with the third person
*Line 6:  三春 can mean (a) 3 springs, i.e. 3 years, (b) the 3 months of spring, and (c) the third month of spring.  It is obvious (a) is out of the question.  It is, however, not certain whether (b) or (c) was meant by the poet.  I have, therefore, decided to blur over it and rendered it, together with “rays/warmth” as “the embrace of spring’s warm sun”.
*Shorter alternative version:  An alternative version of my rendition is set out below:-
Meng Jiao (751-814):  Song of the Travelling Son
1  Thread in hand, the loving mother;
2  Clothes on his back, her travelling son.
3  She sews and sews, his leaving nears;
4  She fears and fears, a delayed reunion.
5  Who says my heart of a grass seedling
6  Can ever repay her warm spring sun?



12 November 2014

王勃 Wang Bo: 山中 In the Mountains

Here is my translation of a quatrain by early Tang dynasty poet 王勃 Wang Bo who is better known for having written one masterpiece of Chinese prose and poetry 滕王閣序 or 滕王閣詩序 "On Prince Teng's Tower: A Tribute with a Poem".  To find out more about this, you may wish to visit my friend Frank Yue's blog "Chinese Poetry in English Verse":- http://chinesepoetryinenglishverse.blogspot.hk/2013/03/by-bank-of-river-gan-king-tengs-grand.html.

Wang Bo is regarded as one of the Four Greats of Early Tang 初唐四傑 (together with 楊烱 Yang Jiong, 盧照鄰 Lu Zhaolin and 駱賓王 Luo Binwang). Unfortunately, he died young at the age of 26 (or 28 by Chinese reckoning which takes birth to be one year old and passage of the New Year to be two) in an accident at sea in the South China Sea while sailing north from 交趾 Jiaozhi (probably present day 榮市 Vinh city, 義安省 Nghe An province, 中北部 Middle-North region, Vietnam) where his father was posted to in relegation. It may be of interest to note that the American Cochin-China and the British Cochin China came from the French Cochinchina (or Cochinchine) which derived from the Portugese Cochim-China which borrowed from the Malay Kuchi which in turn derived from the Chinese Jiaozhi, pronounced Giao Chi in Vietnamese and Gao Tsi in Cantonese Chinese.  You may wish to search for "Cochinchina" in Wikipedia.

Without further ado, here goes this little poem:-  

Wang Bo (650-676): In the Mountains

1  As languid, long as the river, steeped in sorrow am I,
2  A myriad miles from home----to return, but when? I sigh.
3  (O now as day demises, so high are the autumn winds that)
And now as darkness nears, high are the autumn winds that  (revised 17.11.14)  
4  On each and every mountain, how the yellow leaves fly!
                                   
Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
24 July 2008 (revised 25.7.08; 18.9.08; 20.9.08; 22.9.08; 7.11.2014)
Translated from the original - 王勃: 山中

1  長江悲已滯
2  萬里念將歸
3 况屬高風晚
4  山山黃葉飛

Notes:-
*The original is in 5-character lines.  This English rendition is in hexameter (6 beats) as I have been unable to render it in pentameter (5 beats).  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.
*Line 1:  I had originally penned “Like the long and languid river” but have now decided for “As languid, long as the river”.
*Line 2:  I had originally penned “Myriads of miles from home” but have now decided for “A myriad miles from home”.
*Line 3:  For the word “late in the day”, I had originally penned “Oh, as daylight wanes” but have now decided for “O now as day demises” (amended as "And now as darkness falls" 17.11.14).  高風 here means “autumn winds” which are high or strong.  This translation covers both “autumn” and “high”.  (I have deleted "so" from "so high are the". 17.11.14)
*Line 4:  For the repetition of the word in the line, I have used the less than perfect repetition of the letter “e” in “each and every”.  For 黃葉 “yellow leaves”, I had considered “falling leaves” but have decided for the literal translation.