02 September 2009

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

4 comments:

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

I have revised line 2 to read as follows:

2 To afar, like a shimmering curtain, a waterfall hangs upstream:

The note to line 2 now reads as follows:

* Line 2: I have added the simile of “curtain” which, though not literally in the original, is in fact most subtly suggested in the word 布 “cloth” in 瀑布 “waterfall” or “cataract”, which word followed by 掛 “hangs”, produces a vivid picture of “a piece of cloth hanging”, hence, “curtain … hangs”. What I have added is only the “white” colour, and I have decided for “shimmering curtain” rather than “hoar-silk/white silk/glittering curtain”. I had given serious thought to the softer word “drape”, e.g. “hoar-silk/glittering/shimmering drape” or “drape that glitters” or “drape of hoar-silk”, but have decided for the double syllable word “curtain”.

Andrew W.F. Wong

real republica said...

yes!...great Li Bai!...and for you!...

"Só, incessante um som de flauta chora"...

Frank said...

hi, andrew, don't quite understand why you choose 'silver river' over the popular and familiar 'milky way'.
here's my attempted interpretation, please.
-- frank chi wo yue (am an acquaintance of yours decades ago in the service but don't think you'll recall my face now. am camera shy, hehe!)

Admiring the Waterfall at Lu Mountain Li Bai
Purple mists rise from the Incense Burner Peak in the sun;
Waterfall seems to hang above the stream, seen from far'way.
Straight down three thousand feet the white spraying torrent does run.
Descending from Ninth Heaven, could this be the Milky Way?

Nothing is impossible for a willing heart. said...
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