Happy New Year 2017!!!
You may recall that I first began this blog in January 2008 after half a year's search on how to best translate classical Chinese poems into English. I have yet to come to a final conclusion on the matter, but have decided from the very beginning to work on the very short ones, particularly verses of 4 lines of equal line-length which I will term "quatrains" 四行詩 which includes the new style (very stringently) regulated verse 近體詩, the 4-lined "jueju" 絕句, and equivalent less regulated old style poem 古詩. I had, at times, ventured into the easier-going long and short lined verses 長短句 i.e. "ci" 詞, and song lyrics. Hence, from the very beginning, I had abandoned translating 8-lined poems including the new style (extremely stringent because of the parallelism requirement for lines 3 and 4, and 5 and 6) regulated verse 近體詩 called "lushi" 律詩 with 8 lines, and less regulated 8-lined old style poems 古詩 like this Du Fu poem on Mount Taishan.
The first drafts of this English rendition were read by many of my friends 9 years ago. I thank them for their views, comment and encouraging words. I am glad I am now able to post/publish it after having convinced myself that it is well nigh impossi ble to stick to the original rhyme scheme of a single rhyme. Like what I have done for my "ci" (long short lines) translations (please see Li Yu 李煜 for example), I have settled for less than a single rhyme with, I hope, success.
Here we go:-
Du Fu (712—770): Beholding the Mountain (Mount Dai or Taishan)
1 O majestic Mount Taishan, how shall I speak of you?
2 A landmark of green unfolding beyond all Qi and Lu.
3 Endowed, by the Creator, with heavenly beauty true;
4 Your shaded North severed from Southside’s sunny milieu.
5 Cleansed in clusters of clouds, your bosom not in sight;
6 I set my eyes to follow the homing birds in flight.
7 One day for sure will I, ascend your utmost height,
8 To see the other summits dwarfed by your towering might.
Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黄宏發
21 May 2007 (revised 11.6.07; 31.7.07; 31.10.16; 30.11.16; 21.12.16)
Translated from the original - 杜甫: 望嶽
1 岱宗夫如何 齊魯青未了
3 造化鍾神秀 陰陽割昏曉
5 盪胸生曾雲 決眥入歸鳥
7 會當凌絕項 一覽衆山小
*Form, Metre and Rhyme: The original is a 5-character old style verse 五言古詩 (or 五古) which just happens to be in 8 lines. Although, technically, it is not a new style 近體 5-character regulated verse 五言律詩 (or 五律) which must be in 8 lines and which is subject to more stringent rules, I will take it as if they were the same and refer to all 8-line verses with the same number of characters simply as octets (8-line verses八行詩) in my English renditions. While the original is in 5-character (= 5-syllable) lines, this English rendition is in hexameter (6 beats or feet) I have failed to emulate the rhyme scheme of the original which is XAXA XAXA and have adopted AAAA BBBB as my rhyme scheme.
*Title and line 1: 嶽 (mountain) refers to 五嶽 the 5 sacred mountains in the East, South, West, North, and Middle of China, respectively named 泰山 Taishan, 衡山 Hengshan, 華山 Huashan, 恒山 Hengshan, and 嵩山 Songshan. 岱 Dai is another name for Taishan; and of these 5 mountains, Taishan ranks the highest, hence, 岱宗 means Dai the greatest, which I have translated as “majestic Mount Taishan”. This makes the line readily comprehensible. 夫 is an exclamation which is rendered as “O”.
*Line 2: 齊魯 Qi and Lu are the old names of respectively the northern and southern parts of the present-day Shantung 山東 Province. 未了 “not ending in” is rendered as “unfolding beyond” after considering “extending, stretching, spreading, covering, straddling” and following my making clear Dai is a mountain in line 1, I have here in line 2 added “landmark” rather than “landscape” to make sure that 青 “green” refers not just to “green” but to the green mountain. I had considered but rejected the “verdant landmark” formulation as “landmark of green unfolding beyond” best translates 青未了.
*Line 3: 造物 is translated literally as “the Creator”, and 鍾 rendered as “Endowed”. It is suggested that “Endowed, by the creator” should be read with “by” also stressed to make 3 beats in the first half of the line. I had considered but rejected rendering it as “Endowed by the Lord Creator” which would wrongly make it look too Christian. For the second half, 神秀 is rendered as “heavenly beauty true” rather than “divine beauty true” for the same reasons. The word “true” is added to make the “you” rhyme.
*Line 4: 陰 and陽 here refer to 山陰 and 山陽 the North (hence shaded) and South (hence sunny) sides respectively of the mountain range. 昏 and 曉 which should mean dusk and dawn respectively are understood as metaphors for “shaded” and “sunny” and are rendered as such. 割 is translated literally as “severed”.
*Line 5: 曾 is the same word as 層 “layers” and 曾/層雲 is rendered as “clusters of clouds”. 蕩 is rendered as “cleansed”. I had considered “bathed” but have decided for “cleansed” for the alliteration of the “k” sound. 胸 can be rendered as chest or breast, but I do not take 蕩胸 to mean the poet’s chest being bathed, as he is simply beholding the mountain and not up in the mountain. 胸 is, therefore, rendered as “bosom” to mean the mountain’s midriff covered by or bathed/cleansed in clusters of clouds. I have added the logical picture of “not in sight” to make an “-ight” rhyme for the second stanza. I have dropped translating 生 which is implied in the word “in” in “in clusters of clouds”.
*Line 6: 决眥 is rendered as “I set my eyes” after considering “strain, focus, aim, turn”. 入 (enter) is rendered as “to follow” after considering “capture, take in, observe”, and 歸鳥 rendered as “the homing birds”, with “in flight” (which is implied in 歸 returning) added for the “-ight” rhyme.
*Line 7: I had originally penned “Endeavour and strive shall I” for 會當 which, taken together, means “ought to” but, separately, 當 means “ought to” and 會 means “surely will/can”. I have, therefore, decided for “ One day for sure will I". 凌 is rendered as “ascend” after considering “clamber", "scale” and “reach”. I had considered “dazzling” for 絕 to parallel “towering” in line 8, but have decided for the literal “utmost”. 頂 is rendered as “height” for the rhyme.
*Line 8: 一覽衆山 is rendered as “To see the other summits”, and 小 rendered as “dwarfed” with “by your towering might” added for the rhyme and to bring the poem to a forceful end.