13 January 2014

太上隱者 Taishang Yinzhe (Supreme Hermit): 答人 In Reply to Someone

Here is a beautiful quatrain by an anonymous Tang dynasty poet whose identity is a complete mystery, true to the name "Supreme Hermit" he coined for himself probably just for the poem.  Or it may well be that even the name was coined not by himself but by anthologists of posterity.  On the poem itself, does it not remind one of Li Bai's (李白) "Why in the Mountains" ( 山中問答) posted on this blog in June 2011?  Please click:-

Taishang Yinzhe (Supreme Hermit) (Tang dynasty, years unknown): In Reply to Someone

1  By chance to have come beneath the pines,
2  With a boulder for pillow, I sleep care free.
3  Blind, in these mountains, to calendared days,
4  Care not, as the cold wanes, what year it be!

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  譯者: 黄宏發
12th April 2010 (revised 13.4.2010; 23.5.2011; 15.11.2013)
Translated from the original - 太上隱者: 答人

1  偶來松樹下
2  高枕石頭眠
3  山中無曆日
4  寒盡不知年

*  This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.
*  Line 1:  I had originally penned “Just happen to’ve come”, then considered “By chance I have come” and have now decided for “By chance to have come”.  I have chosen to use “pines” to conform to the less demanding XAXA rhyme scheme of the original although “pine-tree” can turn the rhyme scheme into the more demanding AAXA.
*  Line 2:  I had considered “resting” and “slumbering” but have decided for “sleeping”.  As idiomatically, (high pillow) means 無憂 (no worries), To translate I have used “carefree” but split into two words so as to move the stress from “care” to “free”.
*  Line 3:  (no, nil) is taken to mean 無須 (need not) and is translated as “blind … to”.  I have used “calendar” as a verb to make the verb-adjective “calendared” convey the meaning of “keeping count of days, months and years”
*  Line 4:  Similar to in line 3, (not) is taken to mean 不須 (need not) and is translated as “Care not” (or “Who cares”) instead of “Know not”.  I had originally penned “when spring comes” which I consider more logical and natural because 寒盡 (cold/winter ends) implies 春來 (spring comes) as in the idiom 苦盡甘來 (bitterness ends, sweetness comes; or every cloud has a silver lining).  Notwithstanding, I have now decided for the literal “as the cold wanes”.


Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

I have given my lines some thought and have now decided to use, in line 4, the literal "ends" 盡 instead of "wanes".

Unknown said...

Allow me to render a different version:

1 偶來松樹下
2 高枕石頭眠
3 山中無曆日
4 寒盡不知年
Accidentally I venture to a pine tree,
With a high pillow I sleep on the rock just anywhere.
There is no need for a calendar in the mountain,
Who care it’s end of cold Winter or what year?

Unknown said...

After I posted it, I read the original poem again and got a different interpretation on line 1,3 and 4.
Allow me to borrow your rhythum:-

Sometimes I venture to this pine tree,
With a high pillow I sleep on the rock care free.
In the mountain no need to know the calendar day,
Cold Winter will end very soon but what year it will be?

Ray Heaton said...

I have come across this poem before, but I find your translation, Andrew, the finest I have seen. I have wondered whether the last line was more about the fear of growing old, but I think now that your translation makes more sense.

Unknown said...

After reading Ray's comments, I come up with this:

Somehow I venture to this pine tree,
With a high pillow I sleep on the rock care free.
Need not a calendar in the mountain days,
As cold Winter ends, care not what year it will be?

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

I thank TheCyberman 2046 for his contributions and Ray Heaton for his kind words.
Upon reflection, my decision to use, in my line 4, "ends" instead of "wanes" can be misleading as "the cold ends" may refer to the common cold. I have therefore decided to delete the article "the".
Further, I have added an "s" to "pine" in my line 1.
I have simply amended my post outright without indicating the changes.

Unknown said...

Glad to hear you are back.
I would like to see more of your work.