20 November 2008

賀知章 He Zhizhang: 詠柳 An Ode to the Willow

Below is my latest translation, a quatrain by an early Tang poet He Zhizhang.

He Zhizhang (659-744): An Ode to the Willow

1  Up to your crown, O willow, dressed in the green of jades,
2  Myriads of twigs so verdant, droop like your silken braids.
3  Who knows who the tailor is, who’s cut your leaves so fine? It’s
4  The vernal winds past February, sharp as the scissors’ blades.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黄宏發
20th November 2008
Translated from the original - 賀知章: 詠柳

1  碧玉妝成一樹高
2  萬條垂下綠絲縧
3  不知細葉誰裁出
4  二月春風似剪刀

Notes:-
* The original is in 7-character lines. This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet). The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.
* Line 1: I take 一樹高 to mean “to the top of the tree” or “the whole tree” and not “a tall tree”, hence, the phrase “Up to your crown”, “crown” means “head”.
* Line 2: I had considered “hair in braids” but have decided for “silken braids”.
* Line 3: I had considered “master” but have decided for “tailor”.
* Line 4: I have used “past February” as 二月 the second lunar month approximates the solar month of March.

4 comments:

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

I have now revised lines 3 and 4. In line 3, I have deleted any reference to a "tailor/master". In line 4, I now use "cutting" instead of "sharp".

"An Ode to the Willow" by He Zhizhang now reads:-

1 Up to your crown, o willow, dressed in the green of jades,
2 Myriads of twigs so verdant, droop like your silken braids.
3 Who knows by whose design, your leaves are cut so fine? It's
4 The vernal winds past February, cutting like scissors' blades.

Andrew W.F. Wong
21.11.2008

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

Over the weekend, I have given more thought to line 4 and have now revised it from "sharp as the scissors' blades" to "cutting like scissors' blades" to "that cut like the scissors' blades" to, now, I hope finally, "like the scissors' cutting blades". "An Ode to the Willow" now reads:

1 Up to your crown, o willow, dressed in the green of jades,
2 Myriads of twigs so verdant, droop like your silken braids.
3 Who knows by whose design, your leaves are cut so fine? It's
4 The vernal winds past February,
like the scissors' cutting blades.

Andrew Wong
24.11.2008

aiswarya said...

Hi there, your interpretation of willow tree ode was fantastic. I am an illustrator and had required to translate n interpret the same poem in an illustration in which your description and interpretation helped me immensely. Would you be kind enough to translate and interpret in your own beautiful way some more poems for me. Below is the next verse.

回乡偶书 - 贺知章 ************

少小离家老大回, 乡音无改鬓毛衰。
儿童相见不相识,笑问客从何处来。

He is a fantastic poet and would love to see your interpretation.And would gladly like to send over my illustrations for your view if you like.
Regards
Aiswarya

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

Dear Ms Aiswarya, Sorry for the delay in replying. I am glad you like my rendition and thank you for your compliments. I happen to have also translated the poem you mentioned nad will post it early April. Andrew Wong.