01 March 2015

盧綸 Lu Lun: 塞下曲 6首 其3 Border Song, 3 of 6

This month I am posting #3 of Lu Lun's 6 Border Songs.  Songs #1 and #2 were respectively posted here in August 2014 and January 2015.  In my January post, in my discussion with Ray Heaton and Frank Yue, I suggested that these 6 songs can be understood as 6 scenes in the life of an anonymous general.  Now that you have read three of the six, are you inclined to agree?  

Lu Lun (748-800?):  Border Song, 3 of 6

1    A moonless sky, wild geese flown out of sight;
2    (The Huns beaten, their prince at night takes flight.)
      The Hun beaten, their prince by night takes flight.  (revised 3.3.15)
3    (Our cavalry light, all set and due to pursue;)
      Our cavalry light, all set to duly pursue----  (revised 6.3.15)
4    (Our bows and sabres, laden with snow despite.)
      Our bows, our sabres, laden with snow despite.  (revised 6.3.15)

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
15th May 2013 (revised 4.6.2013; 22.12.14)
Translated from the original - 盧綸塞下曲 6首 其3

1    月黑雁飛高
2    于夜遁逃
3    欲將輕騎逐
4    大雪滿弓刀

*    This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.
*    Line 1:  To translate 月黑  I had considered “Moonless and dark”, “The moon shrouded”, “A moonless night” and have now decided for “A moonless sky”..  I have interpreted 飛高 as 高飛遠走 or 遠走高飛 which literally mean “fly high” and “go far” but figuratively mean “out of sight”, hence, my “wild geese flown out of sight” for 雁飛高 instead of the literal “geese fly high”..
*    Line 2:  單于 is the title of a prince or chieftain of the 匈奴 Xiongnu (or Hun) nation and is translated as “The Huns … their prince” instead of the transliteration “Chanyu”.  is translated as “takes flight”.  I have added “beaten” which is not in the original but is implied in the word .
*    Line 3:  I have inversed the order of “light cavalry” 經騎  both for the daDUM (iambic)-dadaDUM (anapestic) meter of the line, and for the mid rhyme of “light” to rhyme with the end rhyme of “sight-flight-despite”. 
*    Line 4:  I had considered “heavy” to translate滿 but have decided for “laden”.  


Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

On re-reading my rendition, I now wish to revise 2 words:-
Line 2: I have revised "at night" to read "by night" which means "in the course of" and is a more accurate translation of 夜 in the context of 夜遁逃.
Line 4: For 滿 (=full), I have now decided to drop "laden with" to revert to my original "heavy". This helps to clearly bring out the contradiction between "light (cavalry)" in line 3 and "heavy (with snow)" here in line 4.
I have effected the revisions in my post.

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

For line 4, I have changed my mind and wish to revert to "laden" instead of revising it to "heavy" which overstates 滿 (full), in this context understood as 蓋滿 or 滿蓋 (fully cover). A more literal translation would be "covered".
I have further revised "Our bows and sabres" to read "Our bows, our sabres".

I have also revised line 3 to read "... all set to duly pursue----".

These revisions are effected in the post.

Gopal said...

Nicely posted

Ray Heaton said...

I really enjoyed the translation of the first two lines, with Andrew avoiding the commonplace and literal translation, also avoiding the word "night" appearing in both lines, cleverly using moonless sky to imply the lateness of the hour and then night in line two indicating the Hun prince almost scurrying away to safety under cover of darkness. I do agree with Andrew regarding scenes in the life of an anonymous general, but I think this second line also emphasises an inferior enemy in the face of the mighty Chinese army. The Hun prince running away from a noble general with his golden arrow whose soldiers are poised to pursue, rallied in their thousands by a man who can split rock with the power from his bow. Keeping the general and his army anonymous enables the border songs to represent all those fighting in these inhospitable lands where even their sabres are laden with snow.

Line three though seems a little strained, as if it was a struggle to find the right words. But using "Our" is definitely right (I'm not so sure about duplicating "Our" in to line four), it's "our cavalry" contrasting with "their prince" in line two; these are our heroes fighting the retreating and cowardly enemy forces, they belong to us, it is us they are fighting for.

Other than being unsure about the duplicated "our", the ending of line four also reads a little artificial; the word "despite" only seems to function as a rhyming word. I do appreciate that reading lines three and four together we get to 'despite the heavy snow our soldiers are still ready to pursue the Hun' but placing "despite" at the end creates an artifice that detracts.

Reading the three songs as a set, copied below for convenience, shows a general, in the first verse taking command, able to convince his soldiers to follow him, proving his might in the second verse and then leading his army to defeat the Hun with his cavalry still willing to make pursuit even though the snows have come. How proud must be those left behind at home!

Bedecked with vulture feathers, his golden arrow;
Swallow-tailed, embroidered, his banners flow.
Alone he stands, proclaims his new command, to
His thousand warriors' battle cry----Onward go!

A dim grove, windswept, its tall grass shook so;
'Twas night, there the general aimed his bow.
Came dawn, for its white feathers they looked;
Sunk deep in a stone cleft was found his arrow.

A moonless sky, wild geese flown out of sight;
The Hun beaten, their prince by night takes flight.
Our cavalry light, all set to duly pursue
Our bows, our sabres, laden with snow despite.