10 May 2018

李白 Li Bai: 自遣 To Myself


Today, I am posting yet another little poem by the great Chinese poet immortal Li Bai of the 8th century.  I do hope you will find it interesting.


Li Bai (701-762): To Myself

1   Wining, not finding evening approaching;
2   Fallen petals, on my gown abound.
3   Sobering, I stroll the creek in moonlight;
4   Birds retiring, ah, few men around.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者: 黃宏發
26th January 2017 (revised 28.1.17)
Translated from the original – 李白: 自遣

1   對酒不覺暝
2   落花盈我衣
3   醉起步溪月
4   鳥還人亦稀

Notes:-

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a 5-character quatrain.  This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 beats or feet) while the original is in 4-syllable lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.

*Line 1:  對酒 (facing, wine) is rendered as “Wining”, 不覺 (not aware) as “not finding”, and literally as “dusk” but with “approaching” added.

*Line 2:  落花 (fall, flower) is rendered as “Fallen petals” which I consider more appropriate than “Fallen flowers” (despite its “f” alliteration) as what have fallen are not the flowers but their petals.  I had originally penned “on my robe abound” to translate 盈我衣 (fill to the full, my, clothes), but have now decided for “on my gown abound” for the gown-abound assonance.

*Line 3:  醉起步 (drunk, rise, walk) should not be understood as (drunk) followed by 起步 (rise and walk or start to walk), but should be read as 醉起 (rise or recover from being drunk = sobering) followed by (walk) and is, therefore, rendered as “Sobering, I stroll”.  溪月 (creek, moon) is rendered as “the creek in moonlight”.

*Line 4:  鳥還 (bird, return) is rendered as “Birds retiring” after considering “Birds returning”, “Birds roosting”, “Birds roosted” and “Birds nested”.  人亦稀 (men, also, few) is taken to mean “(birds returning to retire) and men also retiring and becoming fewer and fewer” and is rendered as “ah, few men around”, with “ah” used to roughly translate (also) and “around” added to make clear “men” refers to the very few men still staying at the scene (and not to men generally), and to make the “abound(2) and around(4)” rhyme possible.

2 comments:

Walter Lo said...

It sounds like Christmas bells ringing, with the frequent "ing" sound :) Perhaps quite befitting Li Bai's mood in the poem, as it appears to be written lightheartedly, almost half in jest.

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