24 April 2008

李白 Li Bai: 獨坐敬亭山 Sitting Alone at Mount Jingting

The following translation of the poem "Sitting Alone at Mount Jingting" by the Chinese poet Li Bai (701-762) was written on 26 November 2007, last revised on 5 December 2007:-

Li Bai (701-762):  Sitting Alone at Mount Jingting

1  Vanished are the birds upon soaring high,
2  Save a cloud solitary, floats freely by.
3  Tired not of reciprocating one another's gaze,
4  Thou, and thou only, Mount Jingting and I.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
26th November 2007 (revised 5.12.2007)
Translated from the original - 李白: 獨坐敬亭山

1  衆鳥高飛盡
2  孤雲獨去閒
3  相看兩不厭
4  只有敬亭山


*I am grateful to 施頴洲 for his "high(line 1)-by(line 2)-I(line 4)" rhyme in his translation of the same poem which he entitled "Li Po: Sitting Alone by Mount Ching-ting" on pp.66-67 of his "Tang and Song Poetry -- Chinese-English" 中英對照讀唐詩宋詞, 九歌出版社, 台北 Taipei, 2006.

*Line 3: I had originally translated the line as "Tired not of the company we two keep" but have decided to stick to the "gaze" formulation. I have used "one another's gaze" (which is grammatically correct despite popular belief) as "each other's gaze" sounds a bit harsh.

*Line 4: I have used the archaic "thou" instead of "you" faintly hinting at the "I-Thou" vis-a-vis the "I-It" relationship differntiated by Martin Buber in his book "I and Thou" hoping to truly personify Mount Jingting.

Now, back to my last (March 2008) post, I have now further revised my translation of "House in the Bamboo Grove" by Wang Wei (701-761) as follows:-

1  Alone I sit in the shade of the bamboo trees,
2  My strings I pluck, then long and loud I sing.
3  Deep in the forest, none knows I exist,
4  None but the moon, to me she comes a-shining.


*I am grateful to William P. Coleman who recently corresponded with me at length in his blog http://williampcoleman.wordpress.com on his and my versions of the poem. My use of "shade" instead of "bowers" in line 1 and "strings" instead of "zither" in line 2 owe much to his criticism.

Now, further back to my February 2008 post, I have now decided to revert to the onomatopoeiac word "pitter-patter" in line 3 of "A Morning in Spring" by Meng Haoran (689-740), thus:-

In spring I sleep unaware morning is here,
From near then far, trilling songbirds I hear.
In the night's pitter-pattering of winds and rains,
How many blossoms fallen? Not few, I fear!


* I am grateful to Lily Yam Kwan who urged me to reconsider "In the din of".

*Line 1: I have deleted the two commas in the line.


Lilium said...

Great work! This is the best version I have came across. It conveys the original flavour of the poem. Thanks.

Frank Yue said...

hi, andrew,

may i have your critique of the following rendition, please.
-- frank c w yue

Seated by Myself on Jingting Mountain Li Bai
Soaring high, all the birds have flown;
A slow cloud sails away alone.
With fondness we watch each other --
Mount Jingting, I won't seek another!

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

Lilium, thank you for your kind words. To put records straight, I had in July 2008 amended the word "reciprocating" to read "returning" on the advice of my friend the poet 余光中 Yu Kwang-Chung.

Frank, bravo! Just suggesting:-
Seated by Myself at (cannot be on) Mount Jingting
*Soaring high, all (delete "the") birds have flown;
*A slow cloud drifts (instead of "sails") away alone.
*With fondness we watch one another (instead of "each other") --
*Mount Jingting, I'll (instead of "I won't") seek no other (instead of "another").

Andrew Wong.

Frank Yue said...

thanks a lot, andrew, (and now the cat's out of the bag: you know my avatar is a real giant, using the mountain as a mere stool! l o l!)

you're really polishing up my piece; will be more careful before submitting my other 'homework'. (have done about 130 tang poems etc. and a dozen song ci.)

but i thought 'each other' is used between 2 persons whereas 'one another' is for more than 2?

Frank Yue said...

i really like your changing my last line ('Mount Jingting, I'll (instead of "I won't") seek no other (instead of "another").') in order to change a rather 'vague promise' from a fickle (like me? just kidding) to a 'solemn vow by a committed life-long partner', showing enormous sincerity and passion as in li bai's origin.

thanks again for the suggested fine amendments which are totally agreed.

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

I have just posted this rendition on my other blog. I thank [Frank] (writing as [frank yue]) for affording me (the opportunity) to explain, once and for all, my supposed "glaring 'grammatical' error" of "one another's gaze" in my line 3 is no error at all.

I had, in fact, consulted Fowler's "Modern English Usage" and "The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary" when I first penned the line more than 3 years ago; then I merely said in my note: "I have used “one another’s gaze” (which is grammatically also correct) as “each other’s gaze” sounds a bit harsh." I should have, perhaps, clearly stated "each other's" and "one another's" mean exactly the same and are interchangeable.

Here is what the "Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language" says (p. 612): "Although some insist that EACH OTHER be used only in reference to two ... and ONE ANOTHER ... in reference to three or more ..., in standard practice they are interchangeable. EACH OTHER is not restricted to two, nor is ONE ANOTHER restricted to three or more."

Frank Yue said...

hi, andrew,

thank you for your comments and explanation. i guess i was a bit of those die-hard 'old-school' boys, but now am a little 'liberated'.


Once, 'EACH OTHER' was not 'ONE ANOTHER'.
But people got confused: it was no fun.
These gave rise to a lot of contention;
An idea for 'win-win' satisfaction --
Now then, let's just treat the two terms as one!
Hurray! 'ONE ANOTHER' is now 'EACH OTHER'!!

Anonymous said...

Even before I got to line 4, I was thinking that your English is outdated. But then the use of thou was over-the-top.
This was nothing though in comparison to the fact that in your line 4 note you explained that the reason for the later is that you imposed the ideas of a very shady (wrong), mythological, Western thinker.
For translations, people should search for someone who's an academic (and hence likely far more reliable).

Bruce Patterson said...

My attempt:

A flock of birds flying far & high
one lone cloud idling by -
we gaze at each other,
the mountain & I,
until only the mountain remains.