Today, I am posting my rendition of a "lyric" or "ci" 詞 by the late Tang dynasty poet Wei Zhuang who lived past the demise of the Tang dynasty in 907 and continued to serve as an official in the state of 前蜀 "Former Shu" till his death in 910.
I had originally, some 10 years ago, rendered the whole poem in hexameter (6 feet or beats), but have now revised it to accord with the original format of 2 long and 6 short lines format. In this English rendition, the 2 long lines are in hexameter, the 6 short line, in pentameter.
Here we go:-
Wei Zhuang (836-910): To the Tune of - Pu Sa Man
1 They say Jiangnan the South Bank is truly fine and fair;
2 He, who has come to Jiangnan, grows old agreeably there.
3 Its waters, in springtime, are bluer than the sky;
4 In a gaudy house-boat, to the music of drizzles I lie.
5 She, by the wine-stove, gleaming just like the moon;
6 Her wrists, milk-white, as frost and snow bestrewn.
7 While yet un-old, I’d leave not for my home of old,
8 For to leave is to languish in heartbreak pains untold.
Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
25th May 2007 (revised 11.6.2007; 23.7.2007; 3.9.2008; 5.10.18)
Translated from the original –
韋莊: 寄調 - 菩蕯蠻
*Form, Metre and Rhyme: This English rendition is primarily in pentameter (5
feet or beats) with the first 2 lines in hexameter (6 feet or beats). This is to
emulate the original’s 2 longer 7-character lines and 6 shorter 5-character lines.
The rhyme scheme is AABBCCDD as in the original. I am indebted to C.Y.
Hsu 徐兆鏞 for the rhymes of “fair - there”, “sky - lie” and “moon - strewn” in
his translation of the poem and regret I have forgotten the source.
*Line 1: 江南 is rendered transliterally as “Jiangnan” with the literal translation
“the South Bank” added.
*Line 2: 遊人 is not just any visitor/tourist, but someone who has been sent or
has come to stay somewhere away from home, cf. 宦遊人, an official sent to
stay away from home and the capital. As the poem was written before Wei
Zhuang became an official, it is therefore rendered as “He, who has come”. 只合
江南老 “grows old agreeably there” can alternatively be rendered as “will age
*Line 3: 水is rendered literally as “waters” to cover both rivers and lakes.
*Line 4: 畫船 (painted boat) is a house-boat of pleasure painted gaudily, and is rendered as “gaudy house-boat” after considering “painted house-boat”, “boat of pleasure” and “barge of pleasure”. 聽雨眠 is rendered as “to the music of drizzles I lie”.
*Line 5: 爐邊人 (person by the stove) refers to the maid waiting by the wine-stove (not any stove, nor the fireplace) and is rendered as “She, by the wine-stove” rather than literally “fire-stove” as the Chinese yellow rice wine is drunk warmed.
*Line 6: 晧腕 (white wrists) is rendered as “Her wrists, milk-white” after considering “pure white” and “cream white”. 凝霜雪 (congeal, frost, snow) is rendered as “as (with) frost and snow bestrewn”. I am unsure if the word “with” can be omitted.
Lines 7 and 8: For 還鄉 (return home), I had considered “… return not to my home …” for line 7, and “To return …” for line 8, but had decided for rendering the idea of “returning home” as “leaving Jiangnan” which being the essence the these 2 lines.
*Line 7: For 未老 (not yet old), I have coined the word “un-old” and have rendered it as “While yet un-old”.
*Line 8: I have rendered 斷腸 (severed guts) as “heartbreak pains untold” but am still wondering if "heartbreak" should be substituted by “gnawing” which is closer to the literal meaning of 斷腸 (guts severed, hence, gnawing pains).