26 November 2011

李白 Li Bai: 题峰頂寺(夜宿山寺) Written at the Summit Temple (Lodged for the Night at a Mountain Temple)

Yet another great poem by the poet immortal Li Bai.  Hope you will like it.

Li Bai (701-762):  Written at the Summit Temple (Lodged for the Night at a Mountain Temple)

1  Lodged for the night at the Summit Temple,
2     Can touch at arm’s reach the stars so nigh;
3     Yet dare not raise my voice in speech,
4     For fear might disturb the beings up high.
Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者: 黄宏發
8th December 2009 (revised 10.12.09: 11.12.09; 12.12.09; 16.12.09; 13.4.10; 26.11.11)
Translated from the original - 李白題峰顶寺(夜宿山寺)

1  夜宿峰顶寺(危樓高百尺)
2  舉手捫(手可摘)星辰
3  不敢高聲語
4  恐驚天上人


*  This English rendition is a tetrameter (4 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.

*  The 2 versions:  There are two versions to this poem.  I have chosen to translate the “ Written” version over the “夜宿 Lodged for the Night” version (shown here in parenthesis). The version chosen was, purportedly, written by Li Bai in his mid years while the other by him as a young man.

*  Line 2:  I have interpreted the line not literally as “raise my hand to touch the stars” which would contradict lines 3 and 4, but as “can touch, at arm’s reach, the stars” (but shall refrain from doing so).  I have taken the 2 commas away and it now reads "can touch at arm's reach the stars".  I have also added “so nigh”, which is implied and is the essence of this interpretation, so as to make the “nigh(2), high(4)” rhyme.

*  Line 3:  I had considered “raise my voice when speaking’ but have decided for “raise my voice in speech”.

*  Line 4:  I have translated as “disturb” in the (not “wake” ) sense.  I had used “of disturbing” but have now decided for “might disturb”.  I had considered “gods”, “deities”, “immortals”, “fairies”, “souls”, “populace”, etc. but have decided for “beings”, being closest to humans”.  I had considered “beings in/of the sky”, but have decided for “beings up high” with “up” covering and “high” covering .