27 January 2018

Li Yu: 2 Verses to the Tune of Xian Jian Huan 李煜: 相見歡 2首

I started this blog 10 years ago in January 2008, posting here my translation of classical Chinese poems, one poem a month. I now think it is time that I should begin to polish my renditions with a view to ultimate publication in book form.  To begin the process, I began (last November then December) to post here my polished renditions of the poems included in the internet report "10 Most Popular Tang Dynasty Poems in Hong Kong". 

Today, I am giving you my polished renditions of 2 poems by Li Yu, the last Emperor of the South Tang dynasty, both poems written to the tune of Xian Jian Huan  相見歡 (Happy Together), also known as Wu Ye Ti 烏夜啼 (Crows Caw at Night).  These are poems or verses written to a tune the music score of which might have vanished but the pattern/tune of long and short lines remain and is adhered to.  In Chinese, they are known as 詞 "ci" which could best be translated as "lyrics", however, "patterned long-short lined verses" may be prefered for being more descriptive.

The theme of these two verses is melancholy, its cause: loss of his empire and separation from his love.  It is a sad melancholy, but without a single word of bitterness (with resignation?) yet still so sad, so very sad.  I give you this melancholic world of the last emperor of the demised South Tang dynasty, held captive by the emperor of the new Song dynasty.  (Please visit the 2 links for notes written in the original posts.) 

A:  Li Yu (937-978) "Xiang Jian Huan (Happy Together)/Flower groves have shed ..."

Flower groves have shed their spring red halo;
Oh, far too soon to go!
Weathering not the morning sleets and
   the winds by evening blow.

Tears of rouge you're dripping,
Together our wine we're sipping;
Ever again in the morrow?
Ah, life is beset, as ever, with sorrow
   as eastwards waters must flow.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  
譯者: 黃宏發
14 February 2011 (revised 25.2.11; 10.3.11: 30.4.11; 22.1.2018)
Translated from the original - 
李煜相見歡 (林花謝了春红)



B:  Li Yu (937-978) "Xiang Jian Huan (Happy Together)/Alone, in silence ...)

Alone, in silence, up the west tower I go:

The moon is like a sickle; 
That desolate phoenix tree, this clear, cool autumn, 
    locked deep in the courtyard below.

O threads I can’t cut through, 
In a tangle I can’t undo!
Such is my parting sorrow---
A taste that tastes so odd, so strange that my heart   
    ne’er ever before did know.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  
譯者: 黃宏發
3rd March 2011 (revised 7.3.11; 8.3.11; 4.9.12; 19.11.17)
Translated from the original - 
李煜相見歡  (無言獨上西樓)



1 comment:

Ray Heaton said...

Hi Andrew,

Great news about you considering a book, one I'd certainly want in my collection!  If I can assist you in any way, please let me know.

I thought you may be interested in how 相見歡  is translated in the book How to Read Chinese Poetry: A Guided Anthology, edited by Zong-Qi Cai.

Without a word, alone I climb the West Pavilion.

The moon is like a hook.

In the lonely inner garden of wutong trees is locked late autumn.

Cut, it doesn't break,

Tidied, a mess again -

This separation grief.

It's altogether a different kind of flavour in the heart.

Somewhat less poetic than yours, I think, but lines 4 and 5 bear resemblance to the translations you previously noted by Xu Yuanzhong and Tony Barnstone.