28 January 2008

李白 Li Bai: 下江陵/早發白帝城 Downstream to Jiangling/Early Start from Baidi City

So far I have translated the following poems:-
(This was my very first post on my then newly created blog in which I gave a brief progress of my work since mid 2007 by listing out some 11 poems I translated by poet, title and first line.  These are now deleted so as not to crowd the page.  Added  9.11.2013)


(Photograph by Sherman Pun, added 19.10.2015)

Here, I wish to share with you the full text of the first of my translated poems as follows:-

Li Bai: Downstream to Jiangling/Early Start from Baidi City

1  At daybreak I leave Baidi amidst clouds aglow,
2  A thousand miles to Jiangling is a mere day's flow.
3  Whilst monkeys cry incessantly from bank to bank,
4  I've skiffed past a myriad mountains row after row

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa).    譯者黃宏發
23 January 2008 (revised 24.1.08)
Translated from the original - 李白:下江陵/早發白帝城

1  朝辭白帝彩雲間
2  千里江陵一日還
3  兩岸猿聲啼不住
4  輕舟已過萬重山

Note:  I have not decided if the third line should read "In the unceasing cries of monkeys from bank to bank," and if "monkeys" should be replaced by "gibbons".

Postscript 1 (dated 10.6.2011) - Latest revisions:  I have revised my rendition of this famous poem by 李白 Li Bai first posted here on 28.1.2008. There are two alternative titles to the poem. I have translated one 下江陵 as "Downstream to Jiangling" and the other 早發白帝城 as "Early Departure from Baidi City". I have also revised and expanded my notes which follow my translation. I do hope you will find this an improved version:-

Li Bai (701—762): Downstream to Jiangling/Early Departure from Baidi City

1   At dawn I left Baidi enwrapped in clouds aglow,
2   A thousand miles to Jiangling, takes only a day to go.
3   In the endless calls of monkeys coming from bank to bank,
4   I’ve skiffed past myriads of mountains row following row.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者黃宏發
23 January 2008 (revised 24.1.08; 2.7.08; 5.9.2008; 16.12.08; 18.2.09; 26.6.09; 10.6.11)

Notes (revised and expanded up to 10.6.2011, further revised up to 13.6, then 15.6.2011 and 16.6.2011):-
* This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) whilst the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA (or AAXA) as in the original.
* Title and lines 1 and 2: I am grateful to 許淵冲 Xu Yuanzhong (XYZ) of Peking University who graciously met me on 3rd December 2008. On the question of proper names, he suggested to me that the Chinese place names should best be omitted. It seems he has taken the advice of my mentor John A. Turner (who taught me poetry in 1961-62) one step further (please see pp. xxxii-xxxiv of his “A Golden Treasury of Chinese Poetry”, Hong Kong: The Chinese Univ. of Hong Kong Press, 1989.) XYZ’s rendition which he entitled “Leaving the White Emperor Town at Dawn” can be found in his “Bilingual Edition 300 Tang Poems”, Beijing: Higher Education Press, 2000 p. 191. Notwithstanding my preference for the original place names, I can use “the castle/citadel/city” to replace “Baidi” (XYZ has used “White Emperor”) and “down the Gorges” or simply “downstream” to replace “Jiangling” (XYZ has used “through canyons”). I am afraid I find it impossible to do the same for the two titles of the poem.
* Line 1: I have now decided to use “dawn” instead of “daybreak” and have changed “leave” to “left” to make clear that dawn is past I had used “amidst clouds aglow”, then considered “yclad (meaning clothed) in clouds aglow”, “in a canopy of clouds aglow”, and decided for “enwrapped in clouds aglow”. I have now changed my mind in favour of "yclad".
* Line 2: Although the Chinese mile  “li” is about one third of a mile (according to the 1929 official standards) and the distance between Baidi and Jiangling is actually about 300 miles, yet I do love the hyperbole of “A thousand miles” and have no wish to be as precise as “Three hundred miles” or as loose as “Hundreds of miles”. I had penned “is a mere day’s flow”, then considered “is but a day’s flow” and “is just a day’s flow” and, alternatively, “takes but a day to go” and “takes just a day to go”, and have now decided for “takes only a day to go”. I have now changed my mind in favour of "takes but a day to go".
* Line 3: I had first penned the line as “Whilst monkeys cry incessantly from bank to bank”, considered “Whilst monkeys cry incessantly on banks left and right”, “In the unceasing cries of monkeys from banks left and right”, “In the endless din of monkeys calling from bank to bank”, “In the endless cries of monkeys calling from bank to bank” and “In the endless calls of monkeys coming from bank to bank”, and have now decided for "In the endless cries of monkeys on banks both left and right".
* Line 4: Although I had considered the word “sailed”, I decided for “skiffed” which sounds much speedier. The noun “skiff 輕舟, which I need to include, can according to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary be used as a verb. I had considered “skiffed through’ to replace “skiffed past” so as to make certain the syllable “past” (or “through” if chosen) is not read stressed, but have decided it unnecessary. I had first penned “row after row” to end the poem, then revised it to “row following row”, in order to complete the 6-foot meter and the "-ow" rhyme. I now consider "row after row" totally misguided as sailing downstream though the Three Gorges, one can only see two rows of mountains or cliffs or bluffs or escarpments flanking the river. I, therefore, decided to re-write the line. I considered "I've skiffed past myriads of mountains flanking me high or low", then "I've skiffed past myriads of cliffs o'erhanging high and low", then decided for "I've skiffed past myriads of flanking mountains high and low", but have now decided to re-write it as "I've skiffed past a myriad cliff-tops o'erhanging high or low".


Postscript 2 (dated 13.6.2011) - Further revisions to Lines 3 and 4: I now consider my original "row after row" or "row following row" formulation totally misguided as explained in my notes revised up to today (13.6.2011). My further revised version is as follows:- (For revised notes, please see Postscript 1 (dated 10.6.2011) which have now been revised up to 13.6.2011.)

Li Bai (701—762): Downstream to Jiangling/Early Departure from Baidi City

1  At dawn I left Baidi yclad in clouds aglow,
2  A thousand miles to Jiangling, takes but a day to go.
3  In the endless cries of monkeys on banks both left and right,
4  I’ve skiffed past myriads of flanking mountains high and low
.
Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者黃宏發
23 January 2008 (revised 24.1.08; 2.7.08; 5.9.2008; 16.12.08; 18.2.09; 26.6.09; 10.6.11; 13.6.11; 15.6.11)

Postscript 3 (dated 15.6.2011) -  Latest touching up:  I have now decided to use "yclad" instead of "enwrapped" in line 1, "takes but a day" instead of "takes only a day" in line 2, "monkeys on banks" instead of "monkeys from banks" in line 3, and "flanking mountains high and low" instead of "mountains flanking me high or low" in line 4. This latest version is as follows (the notes are accordingly revised):-

Li Bai (701—762): Downstream to Jiangling/Early Departure from Baidi City

1   At dawn I left Baidi enwrapped in clouds aglow,
2  A thousand miles to Jiangling, takes only a day to go.
3   In the endless cries of monkeys from banks both left and right,
4   I’ve skiffed past myriads of mountains flanking me high or low.  

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者黃宏發
23 January 2008 (revised 24.1.08; 2.7.08; 5.9.2008; 16.12.08; 18.2.09; 26.6.09; 10.6.11; 13.6.11) 

Postscript 4 (dated 16.6.2011) - Polishing line 4: I have revised "myriads of flanking mountains high and low" in line 4 to "a myriad cliff-tops o'erhanging high or low". My rendition now reads (Notes revised accordingly):-

Li Bai (701—762): Downstream to Jiangling/Early Departure from Baidi City

1  At dawn I left Baidi yclad in clouds aglow,
2  A thousand miles to Jiangling, takes but a day to go.
3  In the endless cries of monkeys on banks both left and right,
4  I’ve skiffed past a myriad cliff-tops o'erhanging high or low.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者黃宏發
23 January 2008 (revised 24.1.08; 2.7.08; 5.9.2008; 16.12.08; 18.2.09; 26.6.09; 10.6.11; 13.6.11; 15.6.11; 16.6.11)