04 January 2019

李清照 Li Qingzhao: 如夢令 Ru Meng Ling/ As If Dreaming, A Song of (昨夜雨疏風驟) (Last night the rains were sparse ...)


Last month (December 2018), I posted here my rendition of Li Qingzhao's most famous "tune lyric" or "ci" 詞 to the tune of Sheng Sheng Man 聲聲慢 ('Note after Note' Slow Song).  I am quite disappointed that after one whole month, there had only been 98 visits, probably due to the length of both the poem and my notes.  I am grateful to Ray Heaton for his learned comment on my rendition which I will respond to shortly.

Today, I am posting my rendition of another "tune lyric" by this great poetess Li Qingzhao of the (North then South) Song 宋 dynasty.  This lyric is to the tune of Ru Meng Ling 如夢令 ('As If Dreaming' Song) which is short with 33 words in 2 stanzas of 23 and 10 words.  I hope this short poem will serve as an appetizer whetting your appetite for the works of Li Qingzhao and proceed to the "'Note after Note' Slow Song" posted last month. 


Li Qingzhao (1084-1151): Ru Meng Ling/ As If Dreaming, A Song of (Last night the rain was sparse …)

1   (Last night the rains were sparse, the winds, gusty;)
     Last night the rain was sparse, the wind, gusty; (revised 1.3.19)
2   A deep sleep clears not the wine still remnant in me.
3   I ask of the one who rolls up the blinds, 
4   Who just says: “Flowery as ever --- that begonia tree.”

5   “Know, not? Oh, silly!
6   Know, not? Dear me!
7   (Its reds must have thinned out, its greens, now fleshy.”)
     Her reds must have thinned out, her greens, now fleshy." (revised 9.1.19) 

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
14 December 2018 (revised 16.12.18; 19.12.18; 20.12.18; 9.1.19; 1.3.19)
Translated from the original – 李清照: 如夢令 (昨夜雨疏風驟)

1   昨夜雨疏風驟
2   濃睡不消殘酒
3   試問捲簾人
4   卻道海棠依舊

5   知否
6   知否
7   應是綠肥紅瘦

Notes:-

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a long-short lined “lyric” or “ci” to the tune of 寄調 Ru Meng Ling 如夢令 (“As If Dreaming” Song) which, strictly, is not a tune (as the music is lost), but a “lyric pattern”.  Here, it is in 2 stanzas or halves with 23 characters in the first and 10 in the second.  This English rendition faithfully follows the same long-short lined lyric pattern, but with a count of feet or beats (not syllables) to determine the length of the lines.  The long-short line-length pattern of the original is: 6-6/5-6// 2-2-6//.  In this English rendition, I have shortened the four 6-character lines into 5-beat lines and the one 5-character line into a 4-beat line, keeping the two 2-character lines as 2-beat lines.  The line-length pattern of this English rendition is, thus: 5-5/4-5// 2-2-5.  (Please note I have used, for the line-length pattern here and for the rhyme scheme below, the single slash to represent the end of a sentence and the double slash, the end of the stanza.)  The original adopts one single rhyme throughout the poem with a rhyme scheme of: AA/xA// AAA//.  Unable to find a single perfect rhyme (as there are far fewer rhyme words in English than Chinese), I have in this rendition used the assonantal rhymes of “i” (unstressed, viz. gusty -1, silly -5, fleshy -7) and “ii” (stressed, viz. me -2, tree -4, me -6).
*Line 1:  Although can be interpreted to mean 疏放 (unbridled) or 疏狂 (uninhibited), I have decided for the plain meaning of 稀疏 (scanty) so as not to produce a scene of 狂風暴雨 (stormy wind and rain) which, in my view, is not what the poetess wanted to say, hence, my “the rains were sparse, the winds, gusty”.

*Line 2:  濃睡  is rendered as “A deep sleep” after considering “A good sleep” and “Slumbering”.  不消 is rendered as “clears not” after considering “dispels not”.  殘酒 does not mean leftover wine, but refers to the effects of wine remaining in the body, hence, my “the wine still remnant in me”.

*Line 3:  (try) (ask) means “politely ask”, and not “try to ask”, hence, my “I ask (=enquire) of …”.  捲簾 is rendered as “who rolls up the blinds”.  Here in 捲簾人 the word does not specify a gender and is, therefore, rendered as “the one” (rather than “the maid” or “the page”).  This opens the possibility of scenarios other than “a woman in her boudoir”, e.g. “a man in his chambers”, “the man rolls up the blinds, the woman asking”, or “the woman rolls up the blinds, the man asking”.

*Line 4:  卻道 which is the reply to the enquiry, is translated literally as “Who just says”.  海棠 is rendered as “begonia tree” after considering “crab apple tree” which sounds less appealing.  依舊 is rendered as “as ever” (after considering “as before” and “as always”), and to this I have added “Flowery” (after considering “Handsome” and “Pretty”) to make sense of “as ever” and to highlight that this reply and the subsequent response to the reply are about flowers or the lack of flowers.

Lines 5 and 6:  知否 is translated literally as “Know, not?” (after considering “Know it, not?”) to mean “Do you know it, or not know it?”.  To lines 5 and 6, I have respectively added “Oh silly!” and “Dear me!” to satisfy the rhyme and the 2-beat line length, and to make the dialogue more conversational.

*Line 7:  For (green) and (red), I had originally rendered them as “green leaves” and “red flowers”, then decided for the literal “green” and “red”, and then further decided to render this literal translation in the plural as “greens” and “reds” to make it clearer that they refer to the leaves and flowers.  I have translated literally as “now fleshy” and (thin) as “thinned out”.  In order to complete the “i” and “ii” rhyme, I have reversed the order of the original line to end the poem with the word “fleshy”.  I had considered translating應是 (it should be, the truth is) literally to begin the line, e.g. “The truth is: its reds have thinned out, its greens, now fleshy” which sounds much like lecturing, and have, therefore, decided for the more natural and conversational “Its red must have thinned out, its greens, now fleshy.”

    

6 comments:

Ray Heaton said...

How wonderful to have another Li Qingzhao poem translation, Andrew!

 

You (and readers of this site) may be interested in two books of Li Qingzhao’s poetry that are due to be published this year.  The first is by Wendy Chen (I mentioned her in my comments on the previous translation), Wendy tells me her book is titled, "The Magpie at Night", and the second by the author of “The Burden of Female Talent”, Ronald Egan , and is titled simply, “The Works of Li Qingzhao".

 

The poem you have translated here utilises a not uncommon approach to Chinese poetry writing, the use of previously written poetry to inspire or indeed copy.  Li Qingzhao is perhaps challenging this approach in the way she has addressed this poem, and could be trying to show that she is indeed female and is bringing something different and unexpected (being of course female in a predominantly male canon).

 

In this example, the Li Qingzhao's poem is derived from a Tang Dynasty poem by Han Wo, relevant lines shown here with my (rather quick and loose) translation…

......

昨夜三更雨, last night, the midnight rain

今朝一陣寒, this morning, a chill descends.

海棠花在否, Do the apple blossoms still live?

側臥捲簾看, she opens the curtain to see.


These four lines are preceded by eight lines in a rather conventional treatment of a woman wakening from what appears a somewhat troubled sleep; but Li Qingzhao dispenses with such preliminaries and focuses on the dramatic explosion almost of the mistress’s attitude to her maid who seems oblivious to the state of the blossoms.

I'm interested in whether you think that the term used by Li Qingzhao in the poems final line, 應是綠肥紅瘦, to describe "red", 瘦, is more commonly used in the descriptive for an emaciated person, and therefore this last line could describe not the transience of nature, but rather the subject of the poem, the waking woman still under the effects to too much wine (perhaps the Poet herself) now past her prime into her "autumn years" whereas the maid is still in her youth?  Perhaps such a view may explain her outburst, the duplicated 知否?

In Han Wo's poem we also see the descriptive 瘦, but used more to describe the woman 瘦覺錦衣寬, "grown thin, the brocode gown too large", (this line occurs immediately before the four previously quoted).  Perhaps another borrowing by Li Qingzhao!




Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

I thank Ray Heaton again for his learned comment. I am afraid I again will have to delay my response. Meanwhile, I wish to record a minor revision to the last line which has now been amended to read "Her reds must have thinned out, her greens, now fleshy."

Unknown said...

Many thanks for sharing.

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Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

I have amended line 1 to read "Last night the rain was sparse, the wind, gusty" rather than the original "rains" and "winds".

Supriya dutta said...

Nice post.