13 October 2015

王梵志 Wang Fanzhi: 無題四言絕句 4首 其2 (世事悠悠) Untitled 4-Character Quatrain, 2 of 4 (1- Worldly matters, we worry, weary)

I had cited this poem in Chinese on 14 April 2015 in reply to Ray Heaton's comments on my rendition of Chen Zi'ang's "Song on Ascending the Youzhou Tower" 陳子昂: 登幽州臺歌 (my April 2015 post on this blog) with reference to the meaning of the expression 悠悠.  I said there are more than 20 definitions to the expression and have decided for "going on for a long time" for Chen's poem.

However, in this poem, the meaning should in my view be "numerous" and "multifarious" and, hence, "bothersome" and "troublesome".  Here is my English rendition of this untitled 4-character quatrain.  Does it not remind one of similar sentiments in other poems such as:
(1) Li Bai "Why in the Mountains" - my June 2011 post: chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.hk/2011/06/li-bai-why-in-mountains.html;
(2) Li Bai "A Summer Day in the Mountains" - my September 2014 post: chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.hk/2014/09/li-bai-summer-day-in-mountains.html; and
(3) Taishang Yinzhe "In Reply to Someone" - my January 2014 post: chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.hk/2014_01_01_archive.html?  

Wang Fanzhi (592? - 670?): Untitled 4-Character Quatrain, 2 of 4 (Worldly matters, we worry, weary)

1       Worldly matters, we worry, weary;
2       Up in the mountains, we’d better be.
3       Green pines for shade, to filter the sun;
4       Blue streams, as ever, flow free and easy.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
16th April 2015 (revised 17.4.15; 18.4.15)
Translated from the original – 王梵志: 無題四言絕句 4 其2 (世事悠悠)

1    世事悠悠
2    不如山丘
3    青松敝日
4    碧澗長秋


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is untitled and is a quatrain (4 lines) in 4-character lines, a line length preferred in the very ancient poems of the 詩經 “Book of Songs”.  This is either quatrain #2 of four such quatrains, or stanza #2 of a poem of 4 such quatrain stanzas.  I have taken it to be a free standing 4-character quatrain and have rendered it into English in tetrameter (4 feet or beats).  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.

*Line 1:  In this context,    does not mean “vast" and/or “lasting”, “immense” and/or “infinite”, and certainly not “leisurely”, but should mean “numerous” and "multifarious", hence, "bothersome" and "troublesome" and hence, my “worry, weary” or, if you please, “worry, worry” both aimed at replicating the repetition.

*Line 2:  I had originally penned “we’d rather be” (with “’d” for “would”) but have now decided for “we’d better be” (with “’d” for “had”)..

*Line 3: I had originally penned “Green pines above/abound” to begin the line, but had decided for “Green pines for shade,” to be followed by a verb to complete the meaning of 蔽日. I had considered variously “cover”, “hide”, “hide from”, “block”, “block off”, “ward off”, “dim”, “dampen” “shelter from”, “shut out”, etc.  But they all seem very negative towards the “sun”.  I have, therefore, decided for “filter” or, alternatively, “soften”.

*Line 4:  cannot be translated literally as “autumn” without becoming incomprehensible.  In this context of “blue streams (waters)” it can only refer to the quality of “autumn waters” and mean either “clear/limpid, hence, beautiful” which I can adopt, or “plentiful/abundant, hence continuous flow” which I prefer.  This interpretation, resulting in my “flow free and easy”, is based on 莊子 Zhuang Zi 秋水 Autumn Waters: “秋水時至,百川灌河 ’Tis the time of autumn waters, hundreds of streams flow into the River.”  (My rough translation).

1 comment:

Ray Heaton said...

I find it interesting that these four lines are used in the Zen Buddhist song sometimes translated to Enjoying the Way attributed to Nanyue Mingzan (南嶽明瓚, I think), and that song is simply delighting in the Dharma.  Similarly I think this poem has a definite taoist (daoist, or perhaps buddhist) meaning which comes across clearly in Andrew's wonderful translation and as such for me most closely matches Li Bai's "Why in the Mountains" as Andrew suggests but perhaps less so with Andrew's two other suggestions (despite the apparent similar theme).

I enjoyed the first line tremendously, not only the repetition in using worry and weary, but the four words all starting with "w" as well as the repeated "wor..." sound (wordly, worry) makes the line roll along wonderfully.  

There's repeated sounds throughout the poem, ("ee" sounds especially), and it's this that leads me to wish Andrew has taken a different word choice to "filter" in line three, perhaps change to "shelter" to repeat the "sh" sound, though "soften" which Andrew would seem to prefer, would work with the "s" of "sun".

Andrew's explanation and translation for line four works on all levels,  and again the line has those "ee" sounds and the near "f" in "ever" with the firmer "f" sounds in "flow" and "free" (this line is especially rich in my native Welsh pronunciation of English words).

If ever there was a poem to be spoken aloud it's this one, especially perhaps if all four stanzas were together!