01 April 2010

杜牧 Du Mu: 清明 Qingming, Early April

It is again early April, a season of mizzles and gloom. This must be the right time to post my rendition of Du Mu's quatrain "Qingming". Here we go.

Du Mu (803-852): Qingming, (the Fifth of) Early (revised 5.4.13) April

1  (Qingming the Fifth of April, a season of mizzles and gloom,)
    It is Qingming, early April, a season of mizzles and gloom, 
    (revised 5.4.13)
2  Away from home, a wayfarer, faring into gloom and doom.
3  (Oh, where can be found a tavern, my good lad, if I may ask?)
    O where can be found a tavern, my good lad, if I may ask? 
    (revised 5.4.13)
4  (There, points the herd-boy, to a village where apricots bloom.)
    There! points the herd-boy to a village where apricots bloom. 
    (revised 5.4.13)

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)         譯者: 黃宏發
16th December 2009 (revised 17.12.09; 18.12.09; 21.12.09; 22.12.09; 4.1.10; 5.1.10; 6.1.10; 7.1.10; 8.1.10)
Translated from the original - 杜牧: 清明

1  清明時節雨紛纷
2  路上行人欲斷魂
3  借問酒家何處有
4  牧童遙指杏花村


* This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original.

* Title and line 1: “Qingming” 清明 is a Chinese festival (for family reunion and visiting ancestral graves) which falls on the 5th (occasionally 4th or 6th) of April. I have, therefore, included “the Fifth of April” in both the title and line 1. I had considered dropping “Qingming” altogether from line 1, e.g. “’Tis again the Fifth of April” or “’Tis again early April”, but have decided otherwise.  Revised 5.4.2013:  I have now decided for "It is Qingming, early April" and "Qingming, Early April" for the title.

* Lines 1 and 2: The word “season” 時節 in line 1 refers to a period of time around the festival day, e.g. Christmas season, and does not mean one of the four seasons.
In line 1, I have added the word “gloom” obviously for the rhyme, but can also be justified as giving notice to and reinforcing “gloom and doom” in line 2 which translates 斷魂 (dispirited). I had used “I’m soaked/steeped in” and “I’m, alas, in” to translate 欲 (which means “on the verge of” or “about to”, and not “wish/desire/want”), but have decided for just “faring into” without “I’m”.

* Line 3: I had used “Oh, where can be found (can I find) a tavern, my despondent (dampened) spirits to lift?”, “Where, oh, where, I wonder, can a tavern somehow be found?”, and “Where, oh, where, I wonder, can a tavern be found? I ask.”, but have now decided for “Oh, where can be found a tavern, my good lad, if I may ask?” with “if I may ask” to translate 借問 and “good lad” added to pave the way for the herd-boy in line 4.  Revised 5.4.13:  I have revised "Oh, where" to read "O where".

* Line 4: I had considered “Thither” and “Yonder” but have decided for “There” which, though not closest to 遙 (far), suffices and which rhymes with “where” in line 3 (perhaps also line 4). I had considered “says”, but have decided to use the literal “points” to translate 指.  Revised 5.4.2013:  I have deleted the second comma and changed the first to an exclamation mark.


Unknown said...

I like your trnsaltion but as a old lady, can the fonts of your trnaslation be larger and the fonts of your notes smaller?

Frank Yue said...

hi, andrew, may i leave my attempt at translating this poem. i think your title should probably read "Du Mu: Qingming, the Fifth of the Fourth Month" (as this refers to the Lunar calendar, not the Gregorian one.)

At Qing Ming (Grave-sweeping Festival) Du Mu
'Round Ching Ming, almost continual is the light rain;
Wet and tired, sad trav'ller on foot is under strain.
"Could you tell me where a rest and drink I may enjoy?"
Towards the Apricot-Flow'r Village points the herd-boy.

Frank Yue said...

hi, andrew,
i saw your fine translation of yue fei's "a river in red" on the wykaao blog. may i submit my attempt here for your comments/amendments, please.
(kindly delete this afterwards as this may not be the appropriate site for the song ci.)

【滿江紅】 南宋·岳飛 (1103-1142)

Tune: All Red The River! Yue Fei (Southern Song)
My helmet is raised in anger by bristl'ng hair
As I stand by the railing here.
The driving rains cease.
I lift up my eyes to see,
Bellowing out a long cry toward the dark'ning skies --
My emotions are fierce and high!
Thirty years of honour and merit
Are nothing but dirt and grit.
I travelled eight thousand long miles,
By the clouds and the moon beguiled.
Waiting idly, don't just remain.
Lest youthful heads turn white -- you'll wail in vain!

The shame of Two Emper'rs' Abduction ne'er vindicated!
O When will loyal courtier's lament be eradicated?
We shall drive long columns of chariots
To crush at Mount Helan Pass the marauding hordes!
I resolve to gorge on Tartar's flesh in hunger,
Drink in thirst the Hun's blood amid talks and laughter!
Let's start anew to free our occupied homeland --
We'll report triumphant to the Imperial Court then.

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

Dear Frank,

On your comment of 28 April, the Fifth of April is correct (and not the Fifth of the Fourth Month) as I had explained in my note. Qingming 清明 is a 節氣 (a day marking one of the 24 divisions of the "solar year" in the traditional Chinese calendar) and always falls on 5 or 6 of April on the Gregorian calendar.

As for your comment of 2 May, I have decided to make my rendition of Yue Fei's 滿江红 "The River All Red" my May 2010 post to follow.

Best wishes, Andrew Wong.

Jonathan Jay said...

Grave Sweeping Day in the rain and mist
The road weary traveler seeks some rest
Asking a herd boy where is an inn
Almond Blossom Village and waves far ahead

Jonathan Babcock

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

Dear Mr. Babcock, Thank you for sharing your pretty rendition. Andrew Wong.