31 October 2012

杜牧 Du Mu: 寄楊州韓綽判官 Sent to Magistrate Han Chuo in Yangzhou

This is a re-posting of my October post (6.10.12) on this poem by Du Mu which I inadvertently deleted while trying to enlarge the font yesterday (4.11.12).  My apologies.  Although I am doing this re-posting in November, I am dating it 31.10.2012 hoping it can appear on the blog as my October post.  Below is the introduction in the original post:-

Here is yet another beautiful little poem by the late Tang dynasty poet Du Mu. As I have said in my notes, Han Chuo and Du Mu were great friends and fellow officials when Du was in post in Yangzhou, and 玉人 here refers to Han Chuo and means "handsome fellow", not "beautiful lady". What I have not mentioned in my notes was the story that Du and Han used to frequent pleasure houses together. This known, does line 4 refer to the noble pleasure of teaching flotists (flutists) or other pleasures? I do hope my translation has done Du Mu justice. Please enjoy this ambiguity.

And on 6th October, my original rendition ran:-

Du Mu (803-852):  Sent to Magistrate Han Chuo in Yangzhou

1    In haze the green hills half hidden, to afar the waters flow;
2    Though late in autumn in Southland, its grass is yet to yellow.
3    A night of bright moonlight o'er Bridges Twenty-Four, just
4    Where are you flaunting your flute, my handsome good fellow?

Subsequently, I made some revisions in the "Comments".  These and others are reproduced below:-

My own 24.10.12:  Although I am still awaiting a comment on my "flaunting your flute" (line 4) from my pub friend Bill Lake, I must now ask him to also kindly comment on my decision to revise it to read "paying your pipers" (meaning: calling your tunes) which accords more with my interpretation of 教 (please see my note on line 4).
I also take this opportunity to revise line 1 to read "Green hills in haze half hidden, waters to afar do flow," which formulation better accords with the original Chinese.  I have effected these revisions on the post.

My own 25.10.12:  I have decided to revise the first half of my line 2 to read "This Southland though late in autumn" which sounds better. In so doing, I have inverted the order of 秋盡(autumn end) and 江南(river south). I have effected the revision in my post.

Frank 31.10.12:  hi, andrew,  thank you for your rendition and i like the first 3 lines of your rendition best.  allow me to be v frank: i must say i find your translating (玉人何處) '教吹簫' as (Where are you) 'paying your pipers' most odd, if not totally inappropriate. from my high school dictionary, 'pay the piper (and call the tune)' means 'bear the cost of an undertaking (and have control of what is done)'. to me, this appears to be 風馬牛 to '教吹簫'。  i sincerely hope you'll perhaps kindly re-consider using your former version for line 4. 

Frank 31.10.12:  -and, having given you a broadside, i'm now sticking out my neck with my attempted translation below (for you to have a chance at getting even with me!) ... hehe


Sent to Magistrate Han Chuo in Yangzhou -- by Du Mu 
With green hills blurred by mists, the stream flows afar forever;
Autumn grows old but the grass is still green south of the River.
At the Bridges-Twenty-Four City beneath the bright Moon,
My handsome friend --somewhere-- is teaching someone the flute's tune. 

Frank 31.10.12:  o in order not to repeat the word "green" on both lines 1 and 2 of my rendition, i'd like to revise line 1 thereof to read:
With blue hills blurred by mists, the stream flows afar forever;' 

What I am posting now is my rendition with my revisions consolidated.  The notes have also been revised accordingly.  Having had this chance to take a further look at my rendition as revised, I am beginning to doubt if I had really improved it.  Specifically, (1) is "half hidden" better than "lie hidden", particularly when I already have "hills" for the alliteration, (2) does the inverted order in the first half of line 2 really sound better, doesn't "Though late in autumn in Southland" give a better link to "its grass is yet to yellow", and (3), thanks to Frank's insistence, should I revert to "flaunting your flute"?  I shall be grateful for your comments, kind or otherwise, but please be frank.

Du Mu (803-852):  Sent to Magistrate Han Chuo in Yangzhou

1        Green hills inn haze half hidden, waters to afar do flow;
2        This Southland though late in autumn, its grass is yet to yellow,
3        A night of bright moonlight o’er Bridges Twenty-Four, just
4        Where are you paying your pipers, my handsome good fellow?

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
20th August 2012 (revised 6.10.12; 24.10.12; 25.10.12)
Translated from the original - 杜牧:  寄楊州韓綽判官

1        青山隱隱水迢迢
2        秋盡江南草未()
3        二十四橋明月夜
4        玉人何處教吹簫

*    Title:  判官 in Tang dynasty China was a high ranking staff officer under the Provincial Governor (辭源: 地方長官的僚属,佐理政事) and is, here, translated as “Magistrate” not in the sense of a judge but of a high ranking official.  (Shorter Oxford: Magistrate - a civil officer charged with the administration of the laws, a member of the executive government.  Middle English)
*    Line 1:  I had considered but abandoned “lie hidden” as I take 隐隐 to mean 若隱若現, hence, “half hidden” which makes more sense than “lie/all hidden”.  I have added “in haze” (not in the original) to make a 6-foot line and to make this sense possible.  To translate the repeated sounds of 隱隱 and 迢迢 I have used the alliteration of “h” (hills, haze, half, hidden) and “f” (afar, flow) respectively.
*    Line 2:  I have adopted the version (草未凋 grass not withered yet) which makes more sense than the version (草木凋 grass and trees all withered) and have added “though” to accompany “yet” to complete the sense.  .  I have taken 秋盡 to mean “approaching” and not quite “the end of autumn”, hence “late in autumn”. I had considered but dropped the alternative of “’Tis the end of autumn in Southland …”  江南 can be transliterated as “Jiangnan” but is, here, translated as “Southland” in the interest of those who do not know means “south”.
*    Line 3:  二十四 “Twenty-Four” is not taken to be the name of one single “Bridge” but as numerals referring to the “Twenty-Four Bridges” of Yangzhou city which name, by tradition, stands for Yangzhou.  I have capitalized “Bridges Twenty-Four” to make clear the line refers to the city of Yangzhou.
*    Line 4:  玉人 is not taken to mean “beautiful girls” but a “handsome man”.  Du Mu wrote this poem in jest to Han Chuo who was his fellow official when Du was in post in Yangzhou and was his good friend, hence, “good fellow” (Shorter Oxford: “boon companion”).  In 教吹簫 “teaching how to play the flute”, the idea of “teach” is deliberately omitted as can also mean 使  “to make, let” as. in 金昌绪 春怨 莫教枝上啼” Jin Changxu  A Spring Plaint “Not to (let it) trill on my garden boughs all day”.  This omission, in effect, preserves the ambiguity of the original which many believe is of a sexual nature.  I had originally rendered it as “flaunting your flute” meaning “showing off your flute skills”, but have now decided for “paying your pipers” meaning “calling your tunes”.  (He who pays the piper calls the tune.)