01 March 2010

贾島 Jia Dao: 尋隱者不遇 Visiting the Absent Hermit

The following translation (of a poem which I very much love) was done some 2 years ago and is now posted for the first time. I hope my English rendition is equally lovable.

Jia Dao (779—843): Visiting the Absent Hermit

1  Beneath the pine-trees, I ask of a lad I see.
2  Away is the master gathering herbs, says he,
3  Up in this mountain, but where? I cannot tell,
4  For there the clouds are deep and dense as be.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黃宏發
17 March 2008 (revised 19.3.08; 7.7.08; 17.7.08; 19.7.08; 21.11.08; 25.11.08; 26.11.08)
Translated from the original - 賈島: 尋隱者不遇

1  松下問童子
2  言師採藥去
3  只在此山中
4  雲深不知處

* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme in the Chinese original is XAXA. My rendition changes it to the more demanding AAXA.
* Line 1: I have chosen “a lad” instead of “the lad” as the Chinese original merely says 童子(boy) which I take to mean a boy the poet happens to see there who, on reply, turns out to be the pupil/apprentice.
* Line 2: I have chosen “the master” instead of “my master”.
* Lines 3 and 4: I have moved the “know not” or “cannot tell” idea from line 4 of the original to line 3 in this English rendition.


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

Dear All, I have re-considered my rendition and have decided to revise it as follows:-

1 Beneath the pines I ask of a lad I see.
2 Away is the master gathering herbs, says he.
3 Somewhere in the mountain, where? I cannot tell,
4 For there the clouds are deep and dense as be.

Andrew Wong

Frank said...

hi, andrew, may submit my rendition for your comments?

Failing to Find the Hermit Jia Dao (779-843)
Beneath the pine I asked a child;
Master had gone to find herbs wild.
Teacher was just in this mountain,
Somewhere deep in the clouds' fountain.

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

Dear Frank, I don't think "fountain" fits in. May I suggest an alternative following your interpretation and rhymes?

* Beneath the pine, I asked of the child.
* "My master's gone for herbs grown wild,
* He should just be in the mountain there,
* Deep, way deep in the clouds somewhere."

Best wishes, Andrew Wong.

Frank said...

thanks very much, andrew.

this is very good! (--though i'm of course biased, being the father of the baby. my 'junior' version was done years ago very quickly and 'mountain and fountain' sounded convenient then; don't quite like that either, but don't have the will to fix that, until the present -- thanks to you, doctor of ailing verses.)

Frank said...

hi, andrew,

i used [years ago] the term "the white clouds' fountain" in translating another tang poem [as follows]. if and when you have the time, would you be kind enough to advise if this is appropriate? thanks in advance. [and the red and orange canadian maple leaves in the fall in the mountains are truly breath-taking, as you will doubtless have witnessed.]

【山行】 杜牧
远上寒山石径斜, 白云生处有人家。
停车坐爱枫林晚, 霜叶红于二月花。

Mountain Trek Du Mu
Farther up the cold autumn mountain Winds a stony path slanting;
Deep inside the white clouds' fountain Faintly nest homes enchanting.
I stop my carriage, I sit, and admire
The fine maple woods in the evening hours.
The frozen leaves, with their crimson attire,
Are redder than the blooming March flowers.