04 July 2014

陳天機 Chen Tien Chi: 如夢令 Ru Meng Ling (As If Dreaming)

This month, I am posting a classical long-short-line verse (ci or 詞) written by a contemporary and my rendition of it in English.

This beautiful little poem of 6 lines is by Tien Chi Chen or Chen Tien Chi (陳天機  in Chinese Putonghua pinyin Chen Tienji), Emeritus Professor in Computer Science and Engineering at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.  He first joined the University in 1979 (from IBM where he had served for over 2 decades), was concurrently Head of United College of the University 1980-88 and retired from the University in 1992, but has returned as Visiting Professor of General Education since 1998.  Now that he is nearing his 2nd retirement (or 3rd, if one takes his leaving IBM also as retirement) at the age of 86, it is time opportune that I pay tribute to this extraordinary man and show the world his hidden literary prowess by posting this beautiful poem of his.

I have secured Tien Chi's permission to post this poem which he dated 16th February 2007 and which he sent me shortly by email.  I volunteered to translate it into English which I completed on 20th May of the same year.  Tien Chi has not said as much, but I have always taken it to be a love poem dedicated to his beloved wife Pearl (江獻珠).

I now offer to you Chen Tien Chi's love poem and my English rendition.  Kindly share it with all friends of Tien Chi and Pearl and with all lovers of love poetry. 

Chen Tien Chi (1928-) 
Tune of Ru Meng Ling (As If Dreaming):
The End of the Lunar Year, Drizzling Softly at the Scenic Egrets Pond

1  (O how I love the waters aqua, the mountains green,)
    O how we love the waters aqua, the mountains green,  (revised 15.8.14)
2  On twigs and sprigs, softly, drizzle-drops first sheen;
3  Hand in hand, on the railing we lean,
4  (Envy not the plumes and wings of the phoenix serene.)
    Envy not the plumes and wings of the phoenix queen.  (revised 15.8.14)
5  Drip drop, drip drop:
6  Tit-bits of spring-time's tidings of a brand new scene.

16th February 2007

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)         譯者: 黃宏發
20th May 2007 (revised 4.6.2007; 7.6.2007; 16.7.2007; touched up 16.9.2013; 23.6.2014; 4.7.2014)
Translated from the original Chinese - 陳天機 調寄 如夢令: 年晚小白鷺勝地微雨 



*  This English rendition follows the long-short line pattern of the original with
   hexameter (6 feet) for the 6-character lines (lines 1, 2, 4 and 6), tetrameter (4
   feet) for the 5-character line (line 3), and dimeter (2 feet) for the4-character line
   (line 5).  The rhyme scheme is AAAAXA compared to the original AAXAAA.
*  Line 1:  I had considered “waters blue” but have decided for “waters aqua”.
*  Line 2: “On sprigs and twigs” now revised as “On twigs and sprigs”.  The
   word “sheen” here is a verb.
*  Line 3:  For 闌干 the word “balustrade” now revised as “railing”.  For , I                      
   had considered “recline” to make it possible to achieve the unrhymed X for line 3
   (please see note above), but have decided for the more natural word “lean” which
   makes this rendition deviate from the original rhyme scheme. 
*  Line 4: “Envious not of” now revised as “Envy not,” and “phoenixes,"
   revised as “phoenix”.  The word “serene” is added for the rhyme.  (Added 15.8.14:)  "Serene" is now revised to read "queen" as in 鳳凰 "phoenix", 鳳 is male while 凰 is female.
*  Line 5:  I had considered “A drib and a drab” , then penned it as “Drib-drab,  drib-drab" and have now decided simply for “Drip drop, drip drop."
*  Line 6:  I had considered “Tit-bits of spring-time’s good/glad tidings of a brand new scene” to        somehow make up the 6-beat count for the line , but have now decided to drop the word “good/glad” and venture to suggest that the word “of” should be read stressed.


Ray Heaton said...

An interesting poem and translation!

I tried this myself, but thought it quite difficult, the images quite challenging to portray in English.
I wanted a rhyme scheme and finished with ABABxA (allowing rain and proclaim), with the original lines only really hinted at in my version.

Admire blue hills and lakes turned jade
Branches dripped by a gentle rain
Together we lean on the balustrade
A Phoenix rises, proud plumes proclaim
The rain drips on
The joy of an early spring, portrayed.

Frank Yue said...

hi, andrew,
no time no see!
may i have a go at this?

Tune: Like A Dream
-- by Chen Tien Chi

We love looking at mountains green
And the lake aquamarine;
With long drizzles, the branches now begin dripping.
Hand-in-hand, on the railing we are leaning.
O! Envy not the pair of phoenix flying.
Pitter-patter, pitter-patter --
News of early Spring
Each rain-drop brings!

Frank Yue said...

should bin 2 lines:

Pitter-patter --

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

I thank Ray Heaton and Frank Yue for their contributions. By now, they must know that the protagonist of the love poem, Mrs. Pearl Kong Chen, has passed away. (Please see my August 2014 post.)

Frank's use of a "we" in line 1 of his rendition has, in effect, pointed out that I had been ego-centric. I would now like to revise my line 1 to read "O how we love" instead of "O how I love."

Re-visiting my rendition, I have found my addition of "serene" to "phoenix" in line 4 far too artificial and have decided to add "queen" instead; this being in 鳳凰 "phoenix", 鳳 is male while 凰 is female. The line now reads: "Envy not the wings and plumes of the phoenix queen."

I have effected the above 2 revisions in the post.

I understand Frank has also posted his rendition on the "Forum" of the Hong Kong Economic Journal, in which he also referred to my rendition. Kindly give us, here, a link to his post.

Frank Yue said...

hey, thx, andrew!
4 the kind invitation!

link below: