15 October 2008

李商隱 Li Shangyin: 登樂遊原 Ascending the Pleasurable Plateau

Below is my latest translation which is my first attempt at a poem by Li Shangyin of the late Tang Dynasty. I hope you will enjoy it.

Li Shangyin (813-858): Ascending the Pleasurable Plateau

1 It’s late in the day, my heart’s not well at ease,
2 To the ancient plateau, up, in a carriage I go.
3 Sublime is the beauty of the sun while yet unset,
4 Too soon, alas, is dusky darkness to follow.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
9th October 2008 (revised 10.10.08; 13.10.08; 15.10.08)
Translated from the original - 李商隱: 登樂遊原

1 向晚意不適
2 驅車登古原
3 夕陽無限好
4 只是近黃昏

Notes:
* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme is XAXA which I surmise the original to be. I am grateful to Gabriel C.M. Yu 余志明 for pointing out to me that in the 文淵閣四庫全書電子版 明楊慎撰 古音獵要卷二: “昏 音玄…”. It should also be noted that “go” and “follow” here is an unstressed (feminine) rhyme.
* Line 1: I had considered “my mind is ill at ease”, but have decided for “my heart’s not well at ease”.
* Line 2: I had considered “plateau of old” and “by carriage”, but have decided for “ancient plateau” and “in a carriage”.
* Line 3: I had considered “boundless” versus “sublime” versus “infinite”, and “beauty” versus “splendour”, and have decided for “sublime is the beauty”. I had also considered “ere it sets”, “before it sets”, “about to set”, “soon to set” and “as yet unset”, but have decided for “while yet unset”.
* Line 4: I had considered “dusk and darkness”, “dusk then darkness” and “dusky evening”, but have decided for “dusky darkness”, an unusual expression coined to remind us that “dusk” is “the darker stage of twilight at night or in the morning” (Shorter Oxford Dictionary) which, in this context, leads on to dark night. For the expression 黃昏 which means evening, not dawn, I have chosen to use 昏=dark only, and not 黃=yellow. A superb alternative, albeit at the expense of the alliteration in “dusky darkness”, is “dusky evening”.

6 comments:

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

Since my posting yesterday, I have given more thoughts to my original rendition. What follows is a new version:
Li Shangyin: Ascending the Pleasurable Plateau
(This is a newly revised translation by Andrew W.F. Wong;
the original posted on www.chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.com
on 15th October 2008)

* Still day, but late, my heart is not at ease,
* To the old plateau, up, in a carriage, I go.
* Sublime is the beauty of the sun yet to set,
* So soon, alas, shall dusky evening follow.

16th October 2008

Notes:
* Line 1: “Still day, but late” is a much better expression than “It’s late in the day” or “The day is late”, and “not at ease” much simpler than “not well at ease” and much closer to the original 不適 than “ill at ease”.
* Line 3: It was only after posting my original rendition that the preferable (in this context and in my view, of course) expression “yet to set” dawned on me.
* Line 4: I now use “so soon” as I find “too soon” a bit too strong, and I have now settled for dusky evening”.

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

Gabriel C.M. Yu has furhter suggested to me that "park' instead of "plateau" should be used. Here is my alternative version:-

Li Shangyin: Ascending Park Pleasant
(This is an alternative translation by Andrew W.F. Wong based on the interpretation that Leyou 樂遊, meaning pleasant to visit, was the name of a park outside the city of Changan 長安. Although it was on elevated grounds, the fact that it was a park should instead be emphasized.)
* Still day, but late, my heart is not at ease,
* To the park of old, up, in a carriage I go.
* Sublime is the beauty of the sun yet to set,
* So soon, alas, shall dusky evening follow.
20th October 2008/10/20
Notes:
* Title and line 2: “Park Pleasant” is coined as in the name of a place called Mount Pleasant and similar formulations of place names such as Lake Placid. The translation of “park” is based on the fact that it was a very popular garden and, more important, 原 (plain, highland or low) was written as 園 (garden or park) in some other poems of the Tang Dynasty (e.g. 杜甫 Du Fu’s 樂遊園歌).

RKCT said...

Dear Mr Wong,

Herewith my translation, please comment.

Pleasurable Travel Ascending to a Highland

Approaching to the evening, in a discomfort I feel

Ascending to an oldish highland, in a carriage I go

Descending of the sun, in an endless goodness I see

However, that’s the twilight to follow soon

Regards,
Richard Kwan

Frank said...

hi, andrew,

may i have a go at this, too? will be grateful for your critique.

Ascending the Leyou Plain Li Shangyin (813-858)
It is almost dusk and the gloom in my heart blooms;
I've driven my carriage to the old Leyou Tombs.
The setting sun's infinitely endearing;
Alas, the daylight is fast disappearing!

Frank said...

hi, andrew,

you rightly said in your notes in your other blog on aug. 15, 2011 that '樂遊原' "was, in the Tang dynasty, a very popular garden and, more important, 原 (meaning plain) was written as 園 (with the same sound and meaning as garden or park) in some other poems of the Tang dynasty (e.g. 杜甫 Du Fu’s 樂遊園歌)."

may i revise the translated title of my rendition to:

'ASCENDING THE LEYOU PLEASURE PARK -- Li Shangyin (813-858)'

thanks.

Frank said...

o... to cut out any unnecessary add-on in the translated piece, mui have in fact revised my rendition of this li shangyin poem as follows:


ASCENDING THE LEYOU PLEASURE PARK -- Li Shangyin (813-858)

It is almost dusk and the gloom in my heart does bloom;
To go to the old park, reins of m'carriage I assume.
The setting sun's infinitely endearing;
Alas, the daylight is fast disappearing!

【登樂遊原】 唐·李商隱
向晚意不適,
驅車登古原。
夕陽無限好,
只是近黃昏。