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)


15 comments:

Lok said...

Beautiful translation of the poem! Can you tell us more about the history of this poem?

Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 黄宏發 said...

To: Tin-Kay Goh and Debra Andulics
I have read with interest your 2000correspondence on the poem in http://www.chinapage.com/archieve/guestread-00-11.html, and wish to share with you my own translation of the poem.
To: Lok
Tin-Kay had given a brief history of the poem (Li Bai on his return from banishment) in the siad link.
From: Andrew Wong

Frank said...

hi, andrew,

may i tag on the following translation for comments by your good self or others? thanks.

Downstream to Jiangling (Homeward Bound)! Li Bai
I left Baidi town amid glowing coloured clouds at dawn.
At day's end, I'll be home at Jiangling, a thousand miles gone!
Atop the Yangtze Gorges cliffs gibbons ceaselessly cried --
Ten thousand folds of mountain m'skiff already has slipped by!

Frank said...

hi, andrew,

sorry i'm unable to read your masterpieces regarding 王之渙's
【登鸛雀樓】 and 崔顥's 黃鶴樓】
(pardon my hk-style english!)

i a c, my renditions below for your critique, please.

On Ascending Guanjeliu (The Stork Tower) Wang Zhihuan (688-742)
The white sun hugs the mountains, and ceases to be;
The Yellow River flows, and merges with the sea.
For us to have a much better view than before,
O Come, let's all climb up the stairs to one more floor!

The Yellow Crane Tower Cui Hao (704?-754)
Riding a yellow crane, gone long ago was the sage of old;
Here, only this empty Yellow Crane Tower is left (-- I've been told).
Yellow crane, once departed, has ne'er returned to earth again.
White clouds for ten centuries search the empty, empty skies in vain!
The sunny waters show sharply, sharply Hanyang trees on land;
How lushly, lushly the sweet green grass on Parrot Island stand.
O where is my home in the setting sun's streaks of gold shiver?
Adding to the dark'ning gloom are hazy waves of the river!

Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 黄宏發 said...

Dear Frank, 王之渙's will be posted soon. 崔颢's is still pending as I have not yet figured out what rhyme scheme I should adopt. Best wishes, Andrew Wong.

Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 黄宏發 said...

Dear Frank, On this Li Bai poem, I humbly suggest an alternative (based on your interpretation) for your consideration:-

* In the midst of clouds all glowing, Baidi, I left you at dawn,
* By evening I'll be home at Jiangling, a thousand miles I've gone.
* While on cliffs of the Yangzie Gorges, gibbons ceaselessly cry,
* Ten thousand folds of mountains, my skiff has slipped them by.

I hope you like it. Best wishes, Andrew Wong.

Frank said...

hi, andrew,

this is great! u got me jumping up in joy. cleaner and crisper than my
earlier try. may i adopt it -- the i(mproved)-version -- in my
own files? thanks so very much!

frank

Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 黄宏發 said...

Dear Frank, Of course, it's yours, (it's your interpretation and your rhyme), just acknowledge I've made a small contribution. Best wishes, Andrew Wong.

Frank said...

deal, and thanks, andrew,

as and when this 'polished' translation comes out of my laptop (to see the light of day, in 'book' form or otherwise) as there'll be a note to this effect. am really learning and benefiting from your blog-- and continuing education is a life long quest to keep our minds sharp in the late autumn of our lives.

my laptop is preloaded with programs and i can only write chin. using the wordpad (where there is no spelling check and my typing skill can't be called a skill at all.)

Huy said...

Dear Sir,

If this doesn't cause any trouble, may I have the full text of your "Yellow Crane Tower" translation and use it in a short documentary? I've found many translations on the internet, but yours seems to be the best.

I could be reached at huythientran@gmail.com

Frank said...

hi, huy,

thanks, that's very flattering. i'm sure andrew's (if he cares to reveal his translation) will be better.

i a c, i've just emailed u with regard to your request.

frank

Andrew Wang Fat Wong 黃宏發 said...

Dear Huy and Frank, I had written separately to Huy. I thought Huy was asking for the full text of my translation of Li Bai's "Yellow Crane" to which I replied I was going to post it on my blog in July 2010. If that proves too late for Huy's purposes (a documentary?), I was prepared to send by email to him earlier. Now it seems, if Frank is correct, Huy is interested in Cui Hao's (not Li Bai's) "Yellow Crane Tower" which I am afraid I am not yet prepared to release as I have yet to make a final decision on the rhyme scheme for the Tang octet 律詩 (8-line regulated verse)which Cui Hao's is. So far, I have posted only Tang quatrains 絕句 (4-line verses) except one Song 宋 "ci" 詞 (long-short-line lyrics) in May 2010. May I have your advice, please? Best wishes, Andrew Wong.

Andrew Wang Fat Wong 黃宏發 said...

Dear Frank, It has now been clarified between Huy and I that Huy was asking for my version of Cui Hao's "Yellow Crane Tower". I had already sent him separately my "rough draft" which I am not prepared to post as yet. I will be delighted to share it with you if only I had your email address, or shall we meet as old friends? Please email wfwong08@gmail.com to let me have your telephone number. Best wishes, Andrew Wong.

Frank said...

hi, andrew,

i always regard your well-researched and immaculate translation work on classical chinese poems and ci to be
a cut above the others.

will be very delighted to read your draft indeed. am half a world away; have just emailed you my e-add. thanks!

frank

Anne-Sophie said...

Hi !

This is an amazing translation.

Just finished reading Keith Holyoak work on Li Bai's poem, this is also very beautiful with surprising common points with your work.

If you want to check his work out, here is a link to get his free ebook : http://keithholyoak.com/freepoems.html

Anne-Sophie