26 April 2018

Wang Wei: 2 Poems Entitled "Farewell" 王維: 以"送別"為題 詩2首

Today, I am re-posting 2 poems on the theme of "Farewell" by the great poet of the High Tang (dynasty) Period.  I have taken the opportunity to slightly polish the first (Poem A) which is a 5-character quatrain; as for the second (Poem B), a 5-character 6-line old style poem, I have decided to revert to my original March 2017 version.  I do hope you will find them the more enjoyable.  Here they are:-

A:  Wang Wei (701-761):  Farewell (Here in the hills, I bade you farewell)

Here in the hills, I bade you farewell;
Now by dusk I close my twiggen door.
Oh grass will again be green next spring!
Might you, my lord, be back once more?

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  
24 September 2013 (revised 25.9.13; 26.9.13; 3.10.13; 4.10.13; 5.10.13; 21.10.13; 22.10.13; 28.10.13; 26.4.2018)
Translated from the original - 
王維:  送別 (山中相送罷)


B:  Wang Wei: Farewell (Dismounted, we drank to bid you farewell)

Dismounted, we drank to bid you farewell;
I asked, “My friend, where are you heading?”
“Oh, nothing is working my way,” you said,        
“So be back to the crags of Nanshan, retiring.”
“Go then!  Of the world, you’ll ask no more!
Ah, days of endless white clouds, unending!” 

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  
5 February 2017 (revised 9.2.17; 11.2.17; 1.3.17: 24.4.17; 26.4.2018)
Translated from the original –
王維送別 (下馬飲君酒)



Walter Lo said...

Regarding the second poem I have a somewhat different understanding of 但去莫復問. If I paraphrase it in English, it will be, “Go my friend! I understand very well your reasons! There is no need for me to ask any further.” Hidden behind these words will be the poet's own unspoken dissatisfaction with his own state of affairs, such as the frustrations he experienced as a government official.

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

Dear Walter, When I first posted this poem, I thought I had adequately addressed all interpretations in my note on line 5. Yours is not unlike Burton Watson's interpretation, but yours cannot be described as "not too caring" and is certainly a very acceptable interpretation, but short of shedding light on the ambiguity hidden behind 莫復問 which is at the same time a description of retired life and an admonition not to seek to return. Line 5 reproduced below:-

*Line 5: The key question to ask in the line 但去莫復問 (only, go, not = don’t or won’t, again, ask) is the word 問 “ask”. On the face of it, the line can only mean (A) paraphrasing Watson, “You go then, I will ask no further” (a not too caring poet), or (B) paraphrasing and adapting Bynner, “Allow me to go, ask me no (further) questions” (an egocentric and rude friend). Both take “ask” as “enquire’, as simply the asking of the wheretos and, perhaps, also the whys and wherefores of the retiring friend. Contrary to them, I suggest hidden behind the word 問 “ask” is the asking about, hence, the seeking of worldly matters 世事, i.e. success, advancement, riches, status, etc. This friend who is about to leave to become a hermit will and should begin to不問世事 “not to ask in pursuit of worldly matters”, 不復問 … “ask in pursuit … no more”, and this is what 莫復問 in the line means. I have, therefore, rendered the line as “Go then! You'll ask of the world no more!” I am gratefully to Burton Watson for having borrowed from him his translation of 但去 as “Go then!”

Walter Lo said...

Dear Andrew, Thank you for your response. Burton Watson's interpretation may or may not be the same as mine. His “Go then----I’ll ask no more" doesn't quite convey the interpretation which I have in mind, and his translation may be interpreted to be curt and unfriendly (probably not what Watson had intended) as you have pointed out. To convey my understanding of the line 但去莫復問, I would prefer to translate it as "Go then my friend, I need ask no further." Certainly your interpretation is also reasonable and convincing, but my reasons for preferring my interpretation is, firstly, in line 2 問君何所之, the poet has asked the first question, so it reasonably follows that the 問 in line 5 is likely to be concerning a second question instead of being a comment about a recluse 不問世事. Secondly, 歸卧南山陲 in line 2 already means the friend is going to be a hermit, so for the poet to further comment in line 5 that "Of the world, you’ll ask no more!" (不問世事) does not sound like what the poet will do since a hermit naturally is expected to 不問世事. Interestingly, I have come across a version of the poem which has line 5 as 但去莫復闻, which appears to make sense too.

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

Dear Walter, In my last reply, when I said "the ambiguity hidden behind 莫復問", I should have added "and 南山". 南山 or 終南山 being so close to the capital 長安 Chang'an that taking up hermitage there can be seen as taking a shortcut to officialdom, the so-called 終南捷徑. Hence, my "Of the world, you'll ask no more!"

Walter Lo said...

Dear Andrew, Perhaps 君言不得意 (line 3) could throw some light on the ambiguity of 南山. Actually, I have a feeling that the poet might not be writing about a real event. Rather, he was using an imagined event to express his own sentiments and desire to go into seclusion, and by 南山 I feel he was alluding to 淘渊明's poem 饮酒, reproduced below, which also referred to a 南山 (I understand quite a number mountains are referred to as 南山).
1 结庐在人境,
2 而无车马喧。
3 问君何能尔?
4 心远地自偏。
5 采菊东篱下,
6 悠然见南山。
7 山气日夕佳,
8 飞鸟相与还。
9 此中有真意,
10 欲辨已忘言。