01 December 2009

白居易 Bai Juyi: 問劉十九 At Home to Mr. Liu Shijiu

It must be beginning to snow in many parts of the northern hemisphere. I am posting this little poem of the joys of winter. Just think of mulled wine! Any plonk will do!  No blanc though!  Even plonk noveau!

Bai Juyi (772-846): At Home to Mr. Liu Shijiu

1 (At home----an ebony, foamy new wine,)
   At home:  an ebony, bubbly new wine,
   (revised 8.12.15)
2 (On a little red-clay fire stove warming.)
   On a little stove of red clay, warming.
   (revised 4.12.15)
3 Care for a cup of the good stuff? I say,
4 (Ah snow, in the evening sky, is forming.)
   Ah, snow in the evening sky is forming.
   (revised 4.12.15)

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
20th July 2009 (revised 21.7.09; 2.8.09; 1.12.09)
Translated from the original - 白居易: 問劉十九

1 綠螘新醅酒
2 紅泥小火爐
3 晚來天欲雪
4 能飲一杯無

Notes:

* This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.

* Title and line 1: I take the “wine” to be at the poet’s home. The word問 in the title means “asking/inviting”, hence, “At Home” which is an invitation for drinks (and tit bits) at home. “At home” is also added to line 1 to indicate in the poem itself where the “wine” is.

* Line 1: The “new wine” 新醅酒 is a newly fermented, [deleted 8.12.15: unstrained] unfiltered rice wine, often dark in colour, with foams floating on top. The character 螘 is the ancient character, which is still used, for 蟻 meaning ants, and the foams on the “new wine” had been referred to in classical Chinese as 浮螘(蟻) floating ants or 浮蛆 floating maggots, neither very palatable if not disgusting. I have therefore decided to simply describe it as “foamy” [added 8.12.15: which is now amended to read "bubbly"].  The very first character of the poem 綠 which means green cannot be green as green ants, as far as I know, do not exist.  [Added 8.12.15: Although I now know green ants do exist in Australia (like black swans?), they most certainly did not exist in China then.]  It must mean black or dark as in 綠髮 (green hair) and 青絲 (green silk) both refer to “black hair” in Chinese poetry, hence, I have decided for “ ebony”. If one insists on translating 綠 literally as "green" in contrast to "red" 紅 in line 2, I had considered but rejected “greenish” which, together with “new wine”, produces a beautiful yet wrong image of a Portugese “vino verde” which in the West, is drunk chilled.  [Added 8.12.15: Or, perhaps, the Korean unfiltered rice wine "makkoli" which is more cream coloured than greenish and which, again, is usually drunk cold or chilled in Korea (although I had tried to drink warmed and found it pleasant in a different way.]

* Line 2: I have added “warming” which is implicit in the original.

* Lines 3 and 4: I have reversed the order of the 2 lines for the rhyme. I had considered changing line 3 (line 4 of the original) from a question to an exhortation, viz. “Do come for a cup of the good stuff, I pray,” but have decided to be more faithful to the original, hence, "Care for a cup of the good stuff? I say".  [Language polished 8.12.15]


02 November 2009

王維 Wang Wei: 九月九日憶山東兄弟 Thinking of My Brothers...on the 9th Day of the 9th Moon

This year, the Chongyang 重陽 festival (the 9th day of the 9th moon) fell on last Monday, 26 October 2009. I am posting my translation of this very famous poem by Wang Wei to celebrate the festival:-

Wang Wei (701-761): Thinking of My Brothers East of the Mountains on the Ninth Day of the Ninth Moon

1  All alone in a strange land, a lonely stranger am I;
2  Thoughts of my kindred redouble on every festive day.
3  From afar I know, O brothers, where in the hills we’d be,
4  Each wearing a spray of dogwood, all but the one away.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黃宏發
11th May 2009 (revised 12.5.09; 13.5.09; 21.5.09; 2.11.09)
Translated from the original - 王維: 九月九日憶山東兄弟

1  獨在異鄉為異客
2  每逢佳節倍思親
3  遙知兄弟登高處
4  遍插茱萸少一人

Notes:
* This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.
* Title and lines 3 and 4: 山東 here refers generally to the land east of 華山 Huashan, being where Wang Wei’s ancestral home was (in present day 山西 Shanxi, not 山東 Shandong province). The ninth day of the ninth moon (lunar month) is the Chinese festival of Chongyang 重陽 or Chongjiu重九 (Double Ninth) when traditionally the whole family would go up to the hills to celebrate, wearing in the hair a spray of dogwood or around the arm a pouch of the same, and imbibing ale or wine scented with chrysanthemum. A “spray” is a twig or sprig with leaves and all, which in this case are the fruits (dogberries) that ripen in autumn.
* Line 1: The word “land” should be read unstressed.
* Line 2: I had considered “kin”, “kinsmen”, “kinsfolk”, “kinfolk”, “brethren” and “brothers”, but have now decided for “kindred”. I had originally used the word “come” which should be read unstressed, but have now decided for “on”.
* Line 3: I have decided to use “where in the hills we’d be” instead of ‘you’d be” or “they’d be” in order to heighten the poet’s longing to be with his brothers.
* Line 4: I had used “decked with a spray” but have now decided for “wearing a spray” as explained in the general note. The word “Each” should be read unstressed.

05 October 2009

王翰 Wang Han: 涼州詞 Song of Liangzhou (The Battlefront)

Azurino wrote the following lines on 4 August 2009 in his comments on my August 2009 post ("Peach Blossoms at the Dalin Temple" by Bai Juyi):

王翰 《涼州曲》
Grapewine I would like to taste,
have to go yet I would crave.
Thou dost not tease drunk soldiers of all,
Long ago few come back from war.

Encouraged by Azurino's attempt, I promised I would give this Wang Han 王翰 poem a try. Here is my rendition:-

Wang Han: Song of Liangzhou (The Battlefront)

1  A grape-wine so fine, a cup that gleams at night,
2  To drink on I’d love, but for the summons to fight.
3  Sneer not, O jeer not, if in battle, drunken, I lie,
4  How many, we soldiers, ever came home all right?

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)          譯者: 黃宏發
21 September 2009 (revised 22.9.09; 23.9.09; 24.9.09)
Translated from the original - 王翰: 涼州詞

1  葡萄美酒夜光杯
2  欲飲琵琶馬上催
3  醉卧沙場君莫笑
4  古來征戰幾人回

Notes:
* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.
* Line 2: I have interpreted 欲飲 to mean “wish to continue to drink” which make better sense than “wish to begin to drink”, hence, “To drink on I’d love”. I have omitted translating 琵琶 “pipa” (being a musical instrument somewhat like a lute) and 馬上 “mounted on horseback” (being how the “pipa” was played in the Chinese western frontier to serve as a bugle call to summon the soldiers). The meaning of “cannot drink (on) because of the (urging and urgent) summons” is fully covered by translating 催 as “but for the summons to fight”.
* Line 3: I have translated 沙場 “battleground/field” as simply “in battle”
* Line 4: I have translated 征戰 “going to war/battle” as simply “we soldiers”. I have added “all right” to add the very reasonable meaning of “safe and sound” and, obviously, to complete the rhyme.

02 September 2009

李白 Li Bai: 望廬山瀑布 2首 其2 View of a Waterfall at Mount Lushan 2 of 2

Here is my latest translation. Please let your friends know if you enjoy it.

Li Bai (701-762): View of a Waterfall at Mount Lushan 2 of 2

1  Sunlit is the Incense Summit, aglow in smoke and steam;
2  To afar, like a drape that glitters, a waterfall hangs upstream:
3  Flowing, flying, fluttering ~ plunging three thousand feet,
4  As if ‘twere the Silver River, falling from the heaven supreme.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
5th August 2009 (revised 6.8.09: 7.8.09; 2.9.09)
Translated from the original - 李白: 望廬山瀑布 2首 其2

1  日照香爐生紫煙
2  遙看瀑布掛前川
3  飛流直下三千尺
4  疑是銀河落九天

Notes: (revised up to 16.6.11, please see POSTSCRIPT below for the revised rendition of the poem)

* Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.

* Line 1: I have added the word “Summit” to translate 香爐 “incense burner” as the poem clearly refers to a mountain “peak/summit” and not an “incense burner”. I could have used “censer” or “thurible” to qualify the “peak/summit”, but have decided against them as they yield the image of an “incense burner" being carried and not stationary, hence, “Incense Summit” omitting “Burner”. I have also omitted translating 生 “generating” which can be taken to be implied in “aglow” which latter subtly suggests 紫 “purplish” or “reddish”.

* Line 2: I have added the simile “a drape that glitters” which, though not literally in the original, is in fact most subtly suggested in the word 布 “cloth” in 瀑布 “waterfall” or “cataract”, followed by 掛 “hangs”, which produces a vivid picture of “a piece of cloth hanging”, hence, “a drape … hangs”. What I have added is only the “white” colour, and I have decided for “that glitters” instead of “of hoar-silk” or “of white silk”. I had originally considered “curtain”, e.g. “hoar-silk curtain”, but have decided for “drape”. However, after posting it, I at once relented and revised it to "like a shimmering curtain" for sounding so much better.

* Line 3: I had considered (1) “Flowing, flushing, flying” for its “f” alliteration, (2) the rhyming “Flushing, rushing, gushing”, and (3) “Flowing, rolling, flying”, but decided for “Flowing, flying, fluttering”. I now consider "Rolling, flying, fluttering" (in that order) the best combination as "rolling" which means "flowing faster and in a larger volume" is a better word than "flowing" to translate 飛流 and as 3 "f's" in a row tends to be boring.

Line 4: I have translated 銀河 “Milky Way” literally as “Silver River”. As 九天 the “Ninth Heaven”, like the “Seventh Heaven” or “Seventh of Heavens” in the West, is the highest level of the heavens, I have abandoned both “nine” and “seven” and embraced “Heaven Supreme” which also completes the "-eam" rhyme. I had originally penned “As if the Silver River, were falling …”, but have now decided for “As if ‘twere the Silver River, falling …”.

Postscript (dated 16.6.2011) -  Revisions consolidated: I had as early as 3.9.2011 revised "like a drape that glitters" in line 2 to "like a shimmering curtain". This is now reflected below. I also take this opportunity to effect some touching up: deleting the comma between "afar" and "like" and hyphenating "up" and "stream" (line 2), replacing "Flowing" by "Rolling" (line 3), and deleting "the" and capitalizing "Heaven Supreme" (line 4). The notes in the original post above are accordingly revised up to today. The revised rendition is as follows:-

Li Bai (701-762): View of a Waterfall at Mount Lushan 2 of 2

1  Sunlit the Incense Summit, aglow in smoke and steam,
2  To afar like a shimmering curtain, a waterfall hangs up-stream:
3  Rolling, flying, fluttering ~ plunging three thousand feet,
4  As if ‘twere the Silver River, falling from Heaven Supreme.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
5th August 2009 (revised 6.8.09: 7.8.09; 2.9.09; 3.9.09; 11.8.10; 16.6.11)

03 August 2009

白居易 Bai Juyi: 大林寺桃花 Peach Blossoms at the Dalin Temple

POSTSCRIPT 6.6.2011, LATEST REVISION: My English rendition of this Bai Juyi poem was first posted here in August 2009. It was revised and posted on my other blog (link at top right corner) on 20.5.2011. It is now further revised as follows (notes revised according in the original post):-

Bai Juyi (772-846): Peach Blossoms at the Dalin Temple

1 In men’s realm, after April, blossoms have all but spent;
2 At this a mountain temple, ‘tis time for the peach to blow.
3 Ever complaining spring, once gone, could nowhere be found,
4 Never did know into here it had turned, unhurried to go.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發

27th July 2009 (revised 29.7.09; 30.7.09; 31.7.09; 1.8.09; 3.8.09; 10.5.11; 6.6.11)

ORIGINAL POST 3.8.2009: Below is my latest translation. It is a poem by Bai Juyi or Po Chu-I. Hope you will enjoy it.


Bai Juyi (772-846): Peach Blossoms at the Dalin Temple

1 In the plains past April, peach blossoms have all but gone;
2 In the hills at the temple, ‘tis the time for the peach to blow.
3 Ever plaintful: spring once spent, was nowhere to be found;
4 Never did know: to the hills it’d turned, and reluctant to go.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黃宏發

27th July 2009 (revised 29.7.09; 30.7.09; 31.7.09; 1.8.09; 3.8.09) (further revised 6.6.2011)

Translated from the original - 白居易: 大林寺桃花

1 人間四月芳菲盡
2 山寺桃花始盛開
3 長恨春歸無覓處
4 不知轉入此中來


Notes
(revised up to 6.6.2011):
* This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.
* Line 1: I had considered “world”, decided for “plains” to contrast with “hills” in line 2, but have now decided to revise it to the literal "men's realm". As the “fourth month” on the Chinese lunar calendar approximates May, I had used “past April” now "after April" to translate 四月. I had used "gone" but have now revised it to "spent".

* Line 2: "In the hills at the temple" is now amended to read "At this a mountain temple", and "'tis the time", to "'tis time"
* Line 3: Unlike the poet’s most famous poem 長恨歌 “Ode/Song of Everlasting Regret/Sorrow”, 長 here means 常 “always/ever” and 恨 here means 怨 “complain”. I had originally used “Ever plaintful: spring once spent"", but have now decided for “Ever complaining: spring once gone”.
* Line 4: I had used “Never knowing” to parallel “Ever complaining” in line 3, but have now decided for “Never did know” which subtly suggests “Now I know”. This is precisely what the whole poem is about (Line 1: blossoms gone/spent in the plains; Line 2: peach blossoms blow in the hills at the temple; Line 3: always thought, spring once spent/gone, cannot be found; Line 4: now I know spring is in the hills). I had originally used "to the hills" to translate 此中 but have now decided for
the literal “into here”. I have added “and reluctant to go”, now "unhurried to go" to end this last line of the poem both to complete the rhyme and to say “the poet does not wish spring to go” by saying “spring does not wish to go”.

02 July 2009

劉禹錫 Liu Yuxi: 烏衣巷 Lane of Black-Gown Mansions

What follows is my latest translation in which I can be accused of trying to "naturalized" Chinese poetry into English by the omision of 2 Chinese surnames (Wang and Xie) and the addition of 2 English surnames (Jones and Smith). Grateful for your comments.

Liu Yuxi (772-842): Lane of Black-Gown Mansions

1 By the Bridge of the Heavenly Red-Bird, rank weeds over grow;
2 At the Lane of Black-Gown Mansions, the dying sun sinks low.
3 ‘Neath the eaves of the high and mighty, swallows used to nest, but
4 Now, to homes of the commoners, of the Joneses and Smiths they go.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黄宏發
29th June 2009 (revised 30.6.09; 1.7.09)
Translated from the original - 劉禹鍚: 烏衣巷

1 朱雀橋邊野草花
2 烏衣巷口夕陽斜
3 舊時王謝堂前燕
4 飛入尋常百姓家

Notes:
* This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original.
* Title and lines 2 and 3: 烏衣巷 literally Black Gown Lane was, in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), a lane in the capital Jiankang 建康 (present day Nanjing) to the south the River Qinhuai 秦淮, exclusive to the rich and powerful including Wang 王(導)and Xie 謝(安) families (the two surnames versified in line 3) whose members wore black gowns, hence, that name; and to make that name readily understandable in English, I have added the word “Mansions” to “the Lane of the Black-Gown” in the title and line 2 and omitted Wang and Xie in line 3.
* Line 1: 朱雀 (red bird) is a Chinese geomancy (fengshui 風水) position which is to the front (South) of the centre, with 玄武 (black tortoise-snake) to the back (North), 青龍 (blue dragon) to the left (East) and 白虎 (white tiger) to the right (West), all being references to cluster of stars. I have, therefore, translated it not by the names of birds as either “rose-finch” or “red-finch” but simply “Bridge of the Red-Bird” which bridge leads to the nearby “Lane of Black-Gown Mansions”. The Bridge, then a pontoon or floating bridge, was named after a Gate of the same name 朱雀門 on which must have exhibited some sign, statue or, at least, an inscription signifying its noble heavenly status, hence, I have included the word “Heavenly” before “Red-Bird”. I am grateful to Xu Yuan-zhong 許淵沖 for the word “rank” to translate 野 (p.283 of his, et alias (eds.), “300 Tang Poems -- A New Translation”) which sounds much better than “wild” or “unwieldy”. Like him, I have omitted 花 “flowers” in my translation as such an inclusion would, in English, paint a beautiful and not a picture of decay.
* Lines 3 and 4: I have used “the high and mighty” to translate 王謝 Wang and Xie (see note on Title) as these two surnames make no sense in English to one who does not know the allusion.. I take the 2 lines to mean swallows nesting, and not flying/skimming/skipping/dipping. I have, therefore, used the more habitually correct “’Neath the eaves” instead of the more literal “In the forecourts” in line 3 and “go” instead of “fly into” in line 4. Emboldened by my dropping the two Chinese surnames in line 3, I have decided to add two English surnames (Jones and Smith) to translate 百姓, meaning “the people”, literally “hundred surnames” in line 4. Incidentally, the “Smiths” top the rank, with the “Joneses” coming second, in the “Top 100 English Surnames” in www.genealogy.about.com. I have decided against using the 2 top Chinese surnames of 陳李 “Chan’s and Lee’s” (Cantonese pronunciation) or “Chen’s and Li’s” (Putonghua) according to one version of the 百家姓 “Top 100 Chinese Surnames” and of 趙錢 “Chiu’s and Tsin’s” (Cantonese) or “Zhao’s and Qian’s” (Putonghua) according to another for the same reason I have dropped 王謝 “Wang and Xie”. If one still insist to have the line to sound more exotic/oriental, the line can read: “Now, to homes of the commoners, of the Parks (a Korean surname) and Singhs (an Indian surname) they go”.

08 June 2009

杜牧 Du Mu: 泊秦淮 Moored on River Qinhuai

I have been to Nanjing twice recently, both in May, and visited River Qinhuai where I imbibed no wine but tea. A little secret, the Nanjing local tea called Yuhua 雨花 (Rain Flower) is truly super. You must try it when you go there next. Let me now offer you my latest translation:-

Du Mu (803-852): Moored on River Qinhuai

1 Mist-clad, the coldish water! Moon-filled, the riverside sand!
2 I moor for the night on the Qinhuai, where wining houses stand.
3 O simple song-girls know not, the shame of a kingdom demised,
4 Still sing from o’er the river, that song by the merry king’s hand.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
2nd June 2009 (revised 3.6.09; 4.6.09; 5.6.09; 6.6.09; 8.6.09)
Translated from the original - 杜牧: 泊秦淮

1 煙籠寒水月籠沙
2 夜泊秦淮近酒家
3 商女不知亡國恨
4 隔江猶唱後庭花

Notes:
* This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original.
* Title and lines 1, 2 and 4: “Qinhuai” 秦淮 is a river in present day Nanjing 南京, an ancient capital. I have added the word “River” in the title and the word “riverside” in line 1 to make clear that 秦淮 “Qinhuai” in the title and “the Qinhuai” in line 2 is a river.
* Line 2: I had considered “wining halls at hand” and “wine-halls close at hand”, but have decided against them as “at hand” suggests an inclination to frequent the wine halls which is not suggested by the poem as a whole. I have used the very neutral formulation of “moor...on…where…stand” in order to capture a “not far from” meaning of 近; however, if the literal word of “near” is preferred, an alternative would be “near the wine-hall strand” which does not sound as good.
* Lines 3 and 4: I have used “kingdom demised” in line 3 rather than “nation”, “country” or “land” to pave the way to my translating the song/tune referred to in line 4 not by its title but by its author. 後庭花 (literally: Rear= Inner Yard Flowers), abbreviated from 玉樹 etc. (literally: Jade=Graceful Trees etc.), is the title of a song/tune purportedly written by 陳叔寳 Chen Subao popularly known as 陳後主 (the Last Lord of Chen) of the Southern Chen Dynasty 南陳 (capital present day Nanjing, then called 建康) which ruled over the southern half of China prior to unification by the 隋 Sui Dynasty. He was most licentious during his short reign (582-589) when he and his court indulged daily in wine and dine, song and dance which led to the fall of the dynasty. I have chosen not to translate the reference to the song/tune by the title (which does not tell much without the assistance of a long note), but by the authorship (which makes sense even without this note), hence, the line “Still sing from o’er the river, that song by the merry king’s hand”. I had considered “gay king’s hand”, but have decided against it for its homosexual connotations. A worse case would be “gay lord’s hand”. The word “merry” can be replaced by “same” or “very” (which means the same) if one wishes to be minimalist. However, that song (including that music and that lifestyle) had always been considered to be the cause of the fall of the dynasty, 亡國之音, the music that brings down a nation, so to speak.

20 May 2009

杜牧 Du Mu: 贈別 2首 其2 (1- 多情卻似...) Given on Parting 2 of 2 (1- Fond are my feelings yet...)

What follows is my latest work. Please note that I have used 2 words which are not in good currency, viz. "merry-make" and "heartful" which I believe are most appropriate for 笑 in line 2 and 有心 in line 3 respectively, in the context of the poem. Please also mark the sharp image of "the candle melting in tears" in lines 3 and 4.

Du Mu (803-852): Given on Parting 2 of 2 (1- Fond are my feelings yet...)

1 Fond are my feelings yet unfeeling I feign;
2 Before the wine-flask we merry-make in vain.
3 The heartful candle, our parting, it grieves,
4 And in tears it melts till it’s morning again

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
17th May 2009 (revised 18.5.09; 19.5.09; 20.5.09)
Translated from the original - 杜牧: 贈別 2首 其2 (1- 多情卻似...)  

1 多情卻似總無情
2 唯覺樽前笑不成
3 蠟燭有心還惜別
4 替人垂淚到天明

Notes:
* This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original.

* Alternative rendition: With the same rhyme scheme, the verse can alternatively be rhymed and written as follows:

1 Fond are my feelings, I unfeeling appear;
2 Before the wine-flask, no laughter, I fear.
3 The heartful candle, our parting, it grieves,
4 And in tears it melts, till morning is here.

* Lines 3 and 4: In line 3, “heartful”, a word extant but not in good currency, is the best choice for 有心 since both hint at the candlewick 燭芯. A possible but less than ideal substitute is “heartfelt”. If this were to be preferred, the line should read “Heartfelt, the candle, our …” in either version.

For lines 3 and 4, I had originally penned them as “The candle, for our parting, its heart out, it weeps, A-dribbling teardrops, till it’s daylight again.” I have decided against them for being less than faithful to the original and far too exaggerated. Please compare “the candle - heartful - grieves - our parting” to “the candle - weeps - its heart out - for our parting” (line 3), and “melts - in tears” to “a-dribbling teardrops” (line 4).


28 April 2009

劉禹錫 Liu Yuxi: 竹枝詞 2首 其1 Song of Bamboo Twigs 1 of 2 (1- Green, O green is the willow...)

Here is another love-song from another great Tang master. Hope you enjoy it.

Liu Yuxi (772-842): Song of Bamboo Twigs 1 of 2 (1- Green. O green is the willow...)

1 Green, O green is the willow, placid, peaceful the flow;
2 Hark and I hear on the river, songs from my love, my beau.
3 To the east, the sun is up, to the west, drizzles persist;
4 Though they say the sun is naught, to me, the sun is aglow.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)        譯者: 黄宏發
30th October 2008 (revised 3.11.08; 5.11.08; 17.11.08; 16.12.08; 25.2.09; 28.4.09)
Translated from the original - 劉禹錫: 竹枝詞 2首 其1 (1- 楊柳青青...)

1 楊柳青青江水平
2 聞郎江上唱歌聲
3 東邊日出西邊雨
4 道是無晴卻有晴

Notes:-

* The original poem is in 7-character lines. This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet). The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original.

* Line 1: I had considered “Green, serene” but have decided that “Green, O green” is better for being more faithful to the original.

* Line 2: Following “love”, the word “beau” should be taken to mean lover or suitor only, and not dandy or fop.

* Line 4: The main difficulty in this line is that in Chinese, 晴 (meaning sunny) and 情 (meaning love, affection) have the same sound, thus creating, with 無 (no/not) and 有 (have/is), a double meaning of 無晴-有晴 and 無情-有情. I think my rendition has covered it well, particularly having written “songs from my love, my beau” in line 2. If “to me, the sun is aglow” is considered too subtle, an excellent alternative is “for me, my sun is aglow”

.

20 March 2009

崔護 Cui Hu: 題都城南莊 At a Homestead South of the Capital City

What follows is my latest translation. I hope you will enjoy it.

Cui Hu (circa 796): At a Homestead South of the Capital City/Reminiscence

1 ‘Twas today, at this doorway, a year ago,
2 Her face and peach-blows re-doubly aglow.
3 Her face is gone now, whereto unknown, yet
4 Peach-blows beam on as spring-winds flow.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)          譯者: 黃宏發
11th March 2009 (revised 12.3.09; 16.3.09; 19.3.09)
Translated from the original - 崔護: 題都城南莊/昔所見

1 去年今日此門中
2 人面桃花相映紅
3 人面不知(祇今)何處去
4 桃花依舊笑春風

Notes:
* The original is in 7-character lines. This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 metrical feet). The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.
* Line 1: I had considered “portal”, “door”, “gate”, “front-door”, “doorstep”, “threshold”, “gateway”, etc. but have now decided for “doorway” to rhyme internally with “today”.
* Lines 2 and 3: I had considered “A/The face” for line 2 and “That face” for line 3 to retain the ambiguity of the original, but have decided for “Her face” to make the two lines personal (and a face by the peach flowers must belong to a young lady), yet not as personal as “Your face”.
* Lines 2 and 4: I had used “peach-blooms” but have now decided for “peach-blows”
* Line 2: I have interpreted 相 to mean both 共 “together”, “in unison”, etc. and 交互 “at each other/one another”, “mutual”, “reciprocal”, etc. and have coined the word “re-doubly” to translate 相映紅 as “re-doubly aglow”. If “re-doubly” is considered odd, an alternative is “redoubled their glow”.
* Line 3: I had used “I know not where” but have now decided for “whereto unknown”.
* Line 4: I had considered “still beam” but have decided for “beam on” to translate 依舊 “as of old”. I have interpreted 笑春風 to mean “smile/beam in the spring winds” and not “to laugh at the spring winds”. I have decided to use “flow”, instead of “blow”, to speak of the gentle spring winds.


18 February 2009

王昌齡 Wang Changling: 芙蓉樓送辛漸 At the Lotus Inn to Bid Adieu to Xin Jian

I hope you will enjoy this rendition, particularly "My heart is ice immaculate, abiding in a vessel pristine" to translate "一片冰心在玉壺".

Wang Changling (698-757): At the Lotus Inn to Bid Adieu to Xin Jian

1 Tonight, into Wu, o’er the River, it rains of sleet so keen;
2 Come dawn alone you’ll depart, by the hills of Chu in between.
3 If my kin and kith in Louyang, should after me they ask, well
4 My heart is ice immaculate, abiding in a vessel pristine.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黄宏發
11th January 2009 (revised 13.1.09; 14.1.09; 15.1.09; 19.1.09; 18.2.09)
Translated from the original - 王昌齡: 芙蓉樓送辛漸

1 寒雨連江(天)夜入吳
2 平明送客楚山孤
3 洛陽親友如相問
4 一片冰心在玉壺

Notes:
* The original is in 7-character lines. This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet). The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original.
* Title: I have taken 芙蓉 to refer to 水芙蓉 “lotus” rather than 木芙蓉 or 木槿 “hibiscus”, hence, “the Lotus Inn” to name the inn/restaurant situated at the north-western corner of the city wall of Zhenjiang 鎮江 on the south bank of and closest to the River 長江.
* Line 1: I have taken 夜入吳 “entering Wu at night” to mean 寒雨 “sleet” and not the poet or his friend Xin Jian or both of them entering Wu.
* Line 2: I have taken 楚山孤 (Chu hills alone/desolate) to mean the poet’s friend Xin Jian travelling through the hills of Chu “alone” and not to mean the “desolate” hills of Chu.
* Line 3: I had considered “family and friends” but have decided for “kin and kith” as the word “family” suggests wife and children which I do not believe is the poet’s meaning. I had considered “say”, “pray”, “oh” and “ah” as a connective, but have decided for “well”. Perhaps, I can do without the connective.
* Line 4: The image here is obviously 冰-ice清-clean玉-jade潔- clean. I have, therefore, added “immaculate/pure” to explain “ice” and omitted “jade” (which in this context should be “white jade” 白玉, but “jade” 玉 standing alone creates a mistaken green image) in favour of a “clean vessel”, hence, “vessel pristine”. I had considered “Like ice immaculate is my heart”, “My heart is like ice immaculate”, “As pure as ice is my heart”, “Pure like ice is my heart” and “Immaculate like ice is my heart”, but have decided for “My heart is ice immaculate”. I had considered “alive”, “vibrant”, “throbbing”, “vibrating” to go with “in a vessel pristine” so as to dispel any image of an “icy, cold heart” but decided that the adjectives “immaculate/pure” and “pristine” are powerful enough and that “alive” etc. would add too much to the meaning. I had then considered the plainer and more neutral words of “held”, “kept”, “laid”, “resting”, “lying” and “sitting” and have decided for “abiding”.


02 January 2009

李白 Li Bai: 黄鶴樓送孟浩然之廣陵 At the Yellow Crane Tower to Bid Meng Haoran Bon Voyage

Happy New Year! This is the 2nd day of 2009 and I am posting 2 renditions of Li Bai's "Yellow Crane Tower" so as to report to you how I failed in my first attempt of March 2007 soon after I picked up the hobby. Although I never posted it, I did share it with some of my friends. As if to comfort myself, I called it unorthodox. They agreed probably for the same reason.

Li Bai (701—762): At the Yellow Crane Tower: to Bid Meng Haoran Bon Voyage to Guangling

1 At the Tower of Yellow Crane, my friend, to the west you said goodbye,
2 In this misty, flowery early spring, for Yangzhou downstream you ply.
3 A speck, a silhouette is your lonely sail, to the verdant hills receding, till
4 In my eyes there’s only the long, Long River, rolling to the verge of the sky.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黄宏發
19th December 2008 (revised 22.12.08; 23.12.08; 29.12.08)
Translated from the original - 李白: 黄鶴樓送孟浩然之廣陵

1  故人西辭黄鶴樓
2  煙花三月下揚州
3  獨帆遠影碧山(空)盡
4  唯見長江天際流

Notes:

* This English rendition is in heptameter (7 metrical feet) to emulate the original 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original. This in fact is the first poem I attempted since picking up the hobby in March 2007. This first attempt, revised up to August 2007, was never published and was abandoned as it is far too unorthodox. It is, however, reproduced below in the note on the abandoned translation to record my failure.

* Title: “Yellow Crane Tower” or “Tower of Yellow Crane” is in present-day Wuhan in Hubei Province to the west of “Guangling” or “Yangzhou”. Meng Haoran, also a poet, was a friend of Li Bai’s. Guangling is present-day Yangzhou in Jiangsu Province and was then also known as Yangzhou, hence, its appearance in the text in line 2.

* Line 2: I had considered “the mists and blossoms of March and April” but have decided to use “this misty, flowery early spring”to translate 煙花三月, 三月 being the third month on the lunar calendar. Other translations have vatriously adopted “March” or “April”.“Yangzhou” can be replaced by “the City”or “the Grand City” or even “Youngborough”, which I do not prefer.

* Line 3: I have adopted the 碧山 “verdant hills” version instead of the 碧空 “heavens azure” or “blue void” version. I had considered “fading into the verdant hills” and “to the verdant hills you recede”, but have decided for “to the verdant hills receding”.

* Line 4: The word “my” should be pronounced unstressed as “mi”. The first “long (長)” is added to recognize that it was the poet’s conscious choice to describe the river as long. He could have described it as “grand (大)”. 江 (river) was the original name of this particular river. With this first “long”, the second “Long” should be unstressed.

* The abandoned translation of March 2007 revised up to August 2007:

1.1 Alas! my friend, for years my best,
1.2 You bade farewell to your native west,
1.3 At the Yellow Crane Tower, we parted.
2.1 Willows are misting, flowers in splendour,
2.2 In this third month on the lunar calendar,
2.3 Downstream to Yangzhou, you departed.
3.1 The solitary sail for you they set,
3.2 By now, is but a distant silhouette,
3.3 Fading into the hills and heavens azure.
4.1 And the only sight remaining clear,
4.2 Is the vista of the River long and drear,
4.3 Rolling to where the horizons obscure.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
29th March 2007 (revised 4.4.07; 10.4.07; 26.4.07; 10.5.07; 14.5.07 27.07:17.7.07; 18.7.07; 23.7.07; 30.7.07; 14.8.07)