02 August 2010

李白 Li Bai: 清平調 3首 其2 To the Qing and Ping Tune (for Lady Yang), 2 of 3

Here is the second verse of Li Bai's 3 verses to the tune of Qing and Ping which I promised to post in my June post. I hope you do enjoy it.

Li Bai (701-762):  To the Qing and Ping Tune (for Lady Yang), 2 of 3

1 Ablush, abloom, O peony, your fragrance dewdrops retain!
2 That nymph of mists and mizzles, was a rendezvous dreamt in vain;
3 And who in the courts of old times, your beauty might match? I ask.
4 ‘Twas (pity!) the pretty Feiyan, while her new paint was yet to wane.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
23rd January 2010 (revised 25.1.10; 1.2.10; 4.2.10; 8.2.10; 9.2.10; 10.2.10; 7.4.10)
Translated from the original - 李白: 清平調 3首 其2

1 一枝紅艷露凝香
2 雲雨巫山枉斷腸
3 借問漢宮誰得似
4 可憐飛燕倚新妝


* 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.

* Line 1: I have used “ablush” for 紅 and “abloom” for 艶, and have added “oh peony” to say what is ablush, abloom is a particular peony on a particular stem 枝, made to stand for the lady.. For 凝, I had considered “sustain” and “contain”, but have decided for “retain”.

* Line 2: This is the legend of the King of Chu 楚 who, in dream, rendezvoused with the beautiful nymph/oread/fairy/goddess 神女 of Wu-Shan 巫山. I have decided to translate 巫山 not as the mountain but as its deity. In this context, the mountain clearly stands for the deity who lives there, and for this 神女, I have decided to use “nymph” for its beauty and simplicity although “oread” (mountain nymph) might be more appropriate. And, instead of translating 斷腸 (meaning heartbreak, literally guts severing), I have put in the “dreamt rendezvous” to make plain the legend referred to.

* Line 3: I had considered “Han times” to translate 漢 but have decided for “old times”.

* Line 4: I have translated 倚新妝 (“relying/counting on her new/fresh paint/ make-up”) as “while her new paint was yet to wane”.


Frank said...

hi, andrew,

thanks for the very enjoyable and refreshing translation, as usual.

it seems to me, strictly speaking though, the following very minor suggestions might not be entirely inappropriate :

1 'oh peony' to read 'red peony' a la the original verse; and
3 'And who... your beauty might match? ' to read 'And whom...'

now, i'd be grateful for your
critique of another attempted rendition below:

一枝紅豔露凝香, 雲雨巫山枉腸。
借問漢宮誰得似, 可憐飛燕倚新妝。

Song of Serene Melody No. 2 (of 3)
A vibrant red peony, moist with pearls of fragrant dew --
She is fairer than the Goddess of Witch Mountain in dreams!
From the Han palace who could contest her radiant hue?
O! Not even the famed, newly-dressed Slim Beauty, it seems.

Andrew Wang Fat Wong 黃宏發 said...

Dear Frank, Thank you for your well thought out suggestions which were actually on my mind while I wrote mine. Line 1: To cover "red" I have decided to use "ablush" and, in any case, "oh peony" sounds better than "red peony". Line 3: I had considered "And whom (to whom) ..., might your beauty be matched? ...", but have decided for the current simpler version which means, on analysis, "And who ... might match your beauty? ..." On your rendition, I need to give it some more thought before reverting to you. Best wishes, Andrew Wong.

Andrew Wang Fat Wong 黃宏發 said...

Dear Frank, For your consideration, please:
1 A rosy peony, so sensual, your fragrance moistened in dew --
2 You're fairer than the Fairy Nymph at Witched Mountain in dreams.
3 And who in the palace in Han days might match your elegance true?
4 None but Lady Slim Beauty, in a new dress only, it seems.
Best wishes, Andrew Wong.

Frank said...

thanks, andrew, for your prompt response and suggestions.

i still think, however, your line 1 'oh peony' should better read 'rosy peony'(similar sound here too) -- as the peony can be white, pink or red and 'red' is the one colour specified in the original. [i suppose a rosy peony, when ablush, will be pink at the edges. :O) ]

also, i prefer 'Goddess' to the 'Nymph' (or 'Fairy Nymph') you (suggested and) adopted in your translation. comparing lady yang to just a 'lesser goddess' who are aplenty (found living in rivers, lakes, trees etc. according to greek/roman legends) is simply to downgrade her noble and unique status. {mind your head, the tang emperor may not be amused! :0)}


Andrew Wang Fat Wong 黃宏發 said...

Dear Frank, I should think most peonies come in red and, as peonies are known as 富貴花, red usually comes to mind first. In any case, "ablush" is red/rosy enough to translate 紅. If I were to replace "oh", I would use "red" and not "rosy" which I have used only for the version suggested for your consideration. On the question of "Goddess", our difference lies in preference only, you for the greater and me the lesser. Had it been my preference, I can use "goddess" for my line. Best wishes, Andrew Wong.

Frank said...

hi, andrew,

thank you. points taken.

and thanks to you, my rendition of the poem would now be:

【清平調三首之二】 李白

Song of Serene Melody No. 2 (of 3)
(Ode to Lady Yang) Li Bai
A sensual rosy peony, your fragrance moistened in dew --
You are fairer than the Goddess of Witch Mountain in dreams!
And who from the palace in Han days might match your radiant hue?
O! Not even the Lady Slim Beauty, in a new dress, it seems.


Piggy said...

Can you add www.hkej.com.hk to your blog for ease of access?

Piggy said...

Quite an experience to read your translation in Sydney!

Frank said...

hi, andrew,

just a minor point; you might wish to add a brief notation regarding 'Feiyan' on your line 4:

4 ‘Twas (pity!) the pretty Feiyan, while her new paint was yet to wane.

it seems opportune to explain briefly, for the benefit of the foreign readers, two of the four famous beauties 沉鱼落雁之容, 羞花闭月之貌 in ancient china, namely, lady yang yu-wen and lady chao feiyan.

for your consideration, please.


Akey said...

Dear Andrew:

When I came to the U.S. in the 1960s, I offended a fellow graduate student by using the word "paint" in referring to her lipstick.

Would you use any word other than "paint" in "while her new paint was yet to wane"?

Best wishes,

Akey Hung

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

On Akey's unhappy experience, I should think "paint" is quite a neutral word, "painted" (excess) and "painty" (crude) not so, but how and in what context was the word used? I have not heard people referring to the "lipstick" as "lip paint", only as "lip rouge". As for other words for "paint", we have "make up", "cosmetics", "powder", etc. in addition to "rouge" which can be used in my line. I have chosen "paint" for its assonance with "wane". I thank Frank's suggestion to include in my notes the story/history of Zhao Feiyan of the Han Dynasty which I will do when these poems go to print. Andrew Wong.

james koetting said...

Enjoyed the ambitious translation.

james koetting said...

Enjoyed your ambitious translation