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.

6 comments:

kit fun said...

Dear Fat Suk,

I like your translation/creation. It would be nice if you can post your translation into Chinese of some western poems that yoou are fond of?

Chiu Kit Fun

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

Dear Kit Fun, I am afraid my written Chinese is not as elegant as I would hope it to be. I will, however, make an attempt which will have to be a different subject on a different blog. Best wishes, Andrew Wong.

Frank said...

hi, andrew, i just found this treasure trove or gold mine of yours: chinese-english translations of classical poems by hobbyists. very detailed research and diagnosis of how a piece of carefully formulated translation work is done or perfected step by step. (i used to write detailed notations too to explain the historical socio-political background and any special terms in my pc, but thought no one will
bother to read them together with the translation.) but now i found myself reading your notations with interest. hope am not bothering you with my interpretation; if so,
just say so and i'll stop pestering you. here's another one:

On the 'Mountain Holiday' Thinking of My Brothers East of the Mountains Wang Wei
All by myself, I am a stranger in a foreign land.
On feast days I doubly miss m'family (-- you'd understand).
On the ninth day of ninth month, my brothers will climb the hill.
Each will wear a dogwood on his clothes; mine shall be miss'ng still.

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

Dear Frank,

I am happy to find in you a fellow hobbyist and that you like my notes. They were written just to remind myself of what went through my mind in the process of rendering Chinese poetry into English poetry and I am glad that they are of interest. I hope you can also share your notes/notations with me and all.

As for your translation, I find your "you'd understand" in line 2 a bit contrived, and I doubt if one can say "a dogwood" (line 4) in English.

Best wishes, Andrew Wong.

Frank said...

hi, andrew,

my so-called 'notations' are nowhere near your very meticulous and well-researched ones. i stopped doing them years ago: they're much more time-consuming than doing the actual translation! also, now it's really easy and fast to google for the background info and explanations as required on the net.

right you're on both of your points. (and that kind of hk-english shouldn't be shown here, not even in a rough draft! o mine.)

thanks to you, i've amended the piece as follows. (hope it's better now.)

On the 'Mountain Holiday' Thinking of My Brothers East of the Mountain Wang Wei
All by myself, I am a stranger in a foreign land.
On ev'ry feast day I doubly miss my family grand.
On the ninth day of ninth month, my brothers will climb the hill.
Each will wear a piece of dogwood; mine shall be missing still.

Frank said...

b t w, i think one can indeed say
"a dogwood" as in "i gave my love a dogwood" which is also a flower.
(that's probably why at the back of my mind i thought it was alright, but then the meaning is of course different in the poem where it means a spray of dogwood stem to ward off the plague...)

frank 8-)