08 February 2010

白居易 Bai Juyi: 夜雪 Night in Snow

It is snowing so heavy in Washington D.C. which I am due to visit on the 10th, that I have decided to post this little poem by Bai Juyi (or Po Chu-I). It was translated last July/August. I hope you like it.

Bai Juyi (772-846): Night in Snow

1 Surprised to find, O so cold, my quilt and pillow,
2 Then light I see through the papered casement window.
3 Deep in the night, so heavy’s the snow, I know, when
4 Bamboos go crack ~ a sound, now ‘n’ then, I follow.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
22nd July 2009 (revised 23.7.09; 24.7.09; 3.8.09; 4.8.09; 5.8.09)
Translated from the original - 白居易: 夜雪

1 已訝衾枕冷
2 復見窗户明
3 夜深知雪重
4 時聞折竹聲

* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA as I take the original to be. The “pillow, window, follow” rhyme is unstressed (feminine). The internal rhyme of “snow, know” in line 3 is stressed (masculine).
* Line 2: The word 復 here means “then”, not “again”. The word 户 “door” is omitted in the translation as it refers to the Chinese “casement door” which is also a window. The word “papered” is added to make clear it is not a glass casement window/door which did not yet exist.
* Line 4: For the sound of bamboos breaking, I had considered “snap” and “clack”, but have decided for “crack”. For the word 時, I had considered “e’er ‘n’ anon” and “then ‘n’ again”, but have decided for “now ‘n’ then”


Unknown said...

I like your translation a lot, thanks!

Frank Yue said...

hi, andrew,

any comments on the following, please. thanks!

【夜雪】 白居易
已訝衾枕冷, 復見窗户明。
夜深知雪重, 時聞折竹聲。

Night Snows Bai Juyi (772-846)
Surprised that my quilt and pillow are cold,
I see light reflect'd on m'window again.
In deep of night, snows are heavy like so;
There come sounds of bamboo break'ng now and then.

Frank Yue said...

oh, andrew,

b t w, of course i read your interpretation of line 2 of the original poem: ' The word 復 here means “then”, not “again”'.

as i see it, there's no reference to a clear moon and line 2 refers to the light, at night, on the window that has been reflected mainly from the white snows on the ground. hence, my line 2 ('i see light reflect'd on m'window again'.) hope this is acceptable.

Jonathan Jay said...

by BAI JU YI (772-846)

First a gasp from the chill of pillow and down
Then a-glance at the window's papered glim
In the dead of night I knew of snow's heavy crown
When hearing random, snapping, bamboo sounds

Jonathan Babcock 白宗杰

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

Dear Jonathan, Thank you for sharing your rendtion. Andrew.