07 March 2018

王昌齢 Wang Changling: 閨怨 Young Wife's Regret

Today, I am posting Wang Changling's "Young Wife's Regret" which I translated 2 years ago.  I do hope you will enjoy it:-

Wang Changling (698-757): Young Wife’s Regret

1   (Young wife in her boudoir, knows not of a cheerless hour;)
     A young wife in her boudoir, knows not of a cheerless hour; (revised 12.3.18)
2   (A spring day, in gay array, she ascends the emerald tower.)
     One spring day, in gay array, she ascends the emerald tower. (revised 12.3.18)
3   Sudden she sees, by the roadside, the hue of willows in tears,
4   Regrets she’d let her husband, for a peerage, leave her bower.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
12th January 2016 (revised 14.1.2017)
Translated from the original – 王昌齢: 閨怨

1   閨中少婦不知愁
2   春日凝粧上翠樓
3   忽見陌頭楊柳色
4   悔教夫壻覓封侯


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English rendition of the quatrain is in hexameter (6 feet or beats) while the original is in four 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AAXA is in the original.

*Line 1:  I have rendered the title as “Young Wife’s Regret” which, in my view, are the key words, rather than a literal translation of (bower/boudoir) (plaint/lament).  閨中 means at home alone in a lady’s boudoir (husband away or unmarried) and is rendered literally as in her boudoir” here in line 1 and added to line 4 in the word “bower”.  For 少婦, I had considered “A   young bride which sounds younger and prettier, but have decided for “A   young wife which is closer to the original (woman/wife).  For  “A Young wife in her boudoir”, I suggest reading the word “in” stressed to make 3 beats for the first half of the line.  For I had considered “sorrow” and “woe”, but having to create a rhyme for “tower” (in line 2) and “bower” (word chosen for line 4), I have picked the word “hour” for the task, hence, “a sorrowful/woeful hour”, but on further consideration, I have found “sorrowful” and “woeful” too grave in tone, and have decided to change “sorrowful” or “woeful” to “cheerless”.  The second half of the line now reads: “… knows not of a cheerless hour” which goes well with the very cheerful “in gay array … she ascends the emerald tower” in line 2.

*Line 2:  The internal rhyme ofday, gay, array” here is an embellishment.  翠樓 green building or tower is rendered as emerald tower so that the young wife will not be misinterpreted as going to a 青樓 literally alsogreen building or tower” which, in Chinese, alludes to a pleasure house.

*Line 3:  忽 (sudden)(see) is rendered asSudden she sees(rather than the expectedSuddenly she sees”) so as to produce a more sudden effect.  Please note the word “sudden” is both adjective and adverb, hence no “-ly” is needed for the adverb.  (I had originally considered O sudden” with the word “O” used partly as an exclamation and partly to stand for “all of a” in “all of a sudden” which is an adverbial phrase meaning “suddenly”, but have come to regard it trivial.)  陌頭 is translated as roadsideas literally it means the end/beginning of paths in the fields, hence, refers to roads at either/both ends.   is rendered literally as hue, and I have avoided specifying green to be the colour, as both in Chinese and hue in English can, in addition to colour, mean countenance, appearance, scenery, etc.  I have expanded the simply literal translation of 楊柳 as “willows” to bring out the originally intended allusion to parting.  The Chinese, in the old days, used to pluck willow twigs to see friends and relative leave home, symbolic of their wishing their loved ones would “stay” , which word shares with “willow” the same pronunciation “liu”.  I had originally simply added “weeping” to “willows” specifying the 楊柳 as 垂柳 (drooping, hence, weeping willows) to make explicit the allusion to parting but have decided for “the hue of willows in tears” over “the hue of weeping willows” and “the hue of willows weeping”.

*Line 4:   (teach) is translated as “let” which is what I take it to mean in this context, in other words, just agreeing to let her husband leave home to seek to be made a noble by the emperor (probably for meritorious service in the army), and should not be taken to mean teaching or urging, or even suggesting her husband to do so.  For 覓封侯 (seek to be made a marquis), I have considered “for a title” (Witter Bynner in his “The Jade Mountain” p. 180), “for marquisate”, “for a  rank”, “for honours”, and “for knighthood”, and have decided for “for peerage”. Nobles in Britain are of 5 ranks: (1) duke, (2) marquess (marquis), (3) earl, (4) viscount, and (5) baron (usually translated into Chinese as 公 侯 伯 子 男 respectively), and are known as peers, hence, “for or to seek the title of a marquis (who, like the others, is a peer)” is “for peerage”. I have added “leave her bower” at the end (not in the original but implied in the word “leave home to seek”) to complete the rhyme and to avoid making explicit the implied meaning of “going to war” in consistence with the original.


Walter Lo said...

Dear Andrew, Your rhyming scheme is ingenious! Another wonderful translation.

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

I thank Walter Lo for his kind words.

On reconsidering my rendition, I have now decided to slightly polish it by adding "A" to begin line 1 and changing "A" to "One" in line 2. The 2 lines now read:-

1 A young wife in her boudoir, knows not of a cheerless hour;
2 One spring day, in gay array, she ascends the emerald tower.

I have effected the revisions on my post on which I have also accordingly revised the relevant notes.