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):
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 (687-735?): 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
* 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.