05 January 2010

王维 Wang Wei: 雜詩 A Poem of Sundry Lines

Here is my latest translation. I have chosen January which is when winter-sweet and plum or mume flowers are blooming.

Wang Wei (701-761): (A Poem in a Miscellany)
A Poem of Sundry Lines  
(revised 29.9.2014)

1 Sir, from our hometown, you've just arrived,
2 Of things at home, I should think you know.
3 That day you left: by my latticed window, were
4 The wintersweet flowers, beginning to blow?

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黄宏發
21st December 2009 (revised 22.12.09; 23.12.09)
Translated from the original - 王維: 雜詩

1 君自故鄉來
2 應知故鄉事
3 來日绮窗前
4 寒梅著花未

• 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.
• Lines 1and 2: Instead of “my”, I have used “our” in line 1 to make clear that the visitor is a native of the same hometown, thus, familiar with “things at home” in line 2. I have inverted the order of the 2 phrases in line 2 and, to end it, I had considered the literal translation of 應知 as “you ought to/should know” on the one hand and the implied meaning of “I would/should love to know” on the other, but have decided for the polite conversational rendition of “I should think you know” (not “I think you should know”).
• Line 3: I have decided to use “latticed window”, as a “brocade/brocaded/silken window” makes no sense and any window with paper/silk/brocade mounted must first be latticed.
• Line 4: I have used “wintersweet” 蠟/臘梅 to translate 寒梅 “winter plum”. Although 蠟/臘梅 (chimonanthus praecox) and 梅 (the Chinese/Japanese plum, prunus mume) are different plants, they have a lot in common. Both are native to China, both have fragrant flowers, and both blossom in winter. I have chosen to follow a Chinese folksong entitled” 踏雪尋梅” which runs 雪霽天晴朗 (Snow has stopped, the sky is clear) 臘梅處處香 (The wintersweet’s fragrance is everywhere) … and which makes explicit, at least in this case, that 梅 (literally Chinese plum or mume) in the title refers to 蠟/臘梅 (wintersweet).


ggbbgg122 said...
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Kempton said...

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for another interesting translation. I quite enjoy it.

P.S. looks like the last comment was a spam. I think, if you like, you can turn on your spam filtering even one step further by not allowing comment to show up until you approve them. Just a thought.

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

Dear Kempton (and All),

Thank you for your kind words and your suggestion as to how to deal with spams which I don't really understand and on which I will seek further advice.

In the meantime, I have now revised my note to line 3 which now reads:-

* Line 3: Strictly speaking, 綺 (pronounced “qi” in Putonghua, “yi” in Cantonese) 窗 is a carved-out/hollowed-out window, not necessarily of the regular lattice pattern. A “brocade or brocaded or silken or gauze window” make less sense as any window with brocade or silk or usually paper mountedf must first be carved out or latticed. I had considered “carved” and “carv’d out”, but have decided for “latticed”.

Frank said...

may i submit my attempt at translating this poem for your comments?

Miscellaneous Thoughts Wang Wei (701-761)
You came from my village with news, you say.
Has my plum tree -- you left the wintry day,
Growing by carved windows (of my bower) --
Begun decking itself with red flowers?

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

Dear Frank,

I must say yours is an admirable attempt in rhymed translation. The rhyme scheme of the original is ABCB (end rhyme at lines 2 and 4) which I adhered to, while yours is AABB (2 couplets) which many rhymed translators adopt as an alternative to ABAB ( end rhymes at lines 1 and 3, then 2 and 4) though I don't. May I suggest the following for your consideration:
(1) Should the comma between "news, you" be moved to "village, with"?
(2) Is it worthwhile to move the original line 4 to your line 2?
(3) The word "bower" is used more or less exclusively for a lady's domicile. Is this what you mean in your rendition?
(4) The Chinese/Japanese plum flower can be either red or white. Should "red" be deleted?

I must also say I like your "village" more than my "hometown" and have revised my line 1 to read: "From our native village ...". Thank you.

Best wishes, Andrew Wong.

Frank said...

hi, andrew,

thanks so much for your in-depth, very constructive and professional analysis. just feel like having a one-on-one friendly tutorial with a prof.! (you were actually my senior at u back in 68.)

on your specific point:
(1) agreed; will comply.
(2) short answer is my ability
is limited to do it otherwise.
(3) 'bower' here means just the
'summer house in the garden',
not 'boudoir', the other
meaning you have in mind
(though the poet may assume
other id's like a lady's to
avoid trouble in politically
charged themes, but not in
this simple straightforward
(4) agreed the colour shouldn't
be mentioned here, not in
the original (and may not be

a revised product now follows:

【雜思】 王維
君自故鄉來 應知故鄉事
來日綺窗前 寒梅著花未

Miscellaneous Thoughts Wang Wei (701-761)
You came from my village, with news you say.
Has my plum tree -- you left the wintry day,
Growing by carved windows by the bower --
Begun decking itself with fine flowers?

A.Z. Foreman said...

The inversion in L2 seems unnecessarily clumsy. Why not use a relativizer, or an interrogative? I.e. something like "How are things at home? I should think you know" or "There are things at home I should think you know."

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

Dear Mr. Foreman, Thank you for your suggestion. The inversion in line 2 is necessary for the "know" "blow" rhyme and you have done so too in your 2 versions. Reading the poem again, I now think "back home" sound better than "at home". Together with my revision on 29 April, the poem is now revised as follows:-
*From our native village you've just arrived,
*Of things back home, I should think you know.
*That day you left: by my latticed window, were
*The winter-sweet flowers, beginning to blow?
Thank you again. Andrew Wong.

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

Dear Mr. Foreman, Now that I have posted my rendition of this poem on my other blog www.hkej.com in which I referred to your "unnecessarily clumsy" and made a further reply, I feel obliged to keep you informed of my further thoughts:
(Quote) Something more from my other blog, of my rendition, [AZ Foreman] said in November last year, "The inversion in L2 seems unnecessarily clumsy." I did not understand what he meant when the alternatives he offered (How are things at home? I should think you know/There are things at home I should think you know) were themselves inverted. I did not pause to think that he was not referring to inversion in translation but to the inverted construction of "know of" in "Of things ... you know" which, in my view may or may not be "unnecessarily clumsy". I did, however, sense an uneasiness in the line and decided to revise "at home" to "back home".
I have not incorporated this "back home" revision into this current post as I regard the difference to be slight. Now that I have "beheaded" the tetrameter in line 1 as "Sir, from home ..." (d)dum dadum, I can similarly render line 2 as "Things at/back home ..." (d)dum dadum. This I hope answers [AZ Foreman]'s misgivings.
But, I do like the inversion and loath being beheaded twice. For line 2, I have now deleted "I" to simply read "should think you know". I will now use "imagine" to replace "think" which latter word resembles too much "things" in the same line. Lines 1 and 2 will now read:
1 Sir, from home you have just arrived,
2 Of things at home, should imagine you know.
And, if you share [AZ Foreman]'s misgivings, "Of" can be deleted to read:
2 Things at home, should imagine you know.
Thank you, [AZ Foreman]! 1月14日 17:48 (End quote) Andrew Wong.

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

I have decided to revise the title to "A Poem of Mixed Lines".

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

Sorry, should read "A Poem of Sundry Lines".