29 April 2022

劉方平 Liu Fangping: 月夜 A Night in Moonlight

Today, I am posting a beautiful quatrain on the subject of a night in spring written by 劉方平 Liu Fangping, which I translated last (2021) September to October.  I hope you will find my rendition faithful to the original in terms of both sense and sound.  My notes on lines 1 and 2 are particularly informative.  Let's first have a go on the poem in English:- 


Liu Fangping (circa 758): A Night in Moonlight

 

1                Deep in the night, the whitening moonlight, on our houses’ moonlit side;

2                The Dipper-stars North, a sky-high railing: the Dipper-stars South, subside.

3                O tonight, ‘tis a night, I am pleased to find, so warm, the breath of spring,     

4                As crickets rise a-chirping anew, through my window’s green gauze divide.

 

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發

7 September 2021 (revised 10.9.2021; 14.9.21; 20.9.2021; 24.9.2021; 30.9.2021; 5.10.2021; 8.10.2021; 14.10.2021)

Translated from the original - 劉方平: 月夜

 

1                更深月色半人家

2                北斗闌干南斗斜

3                今夜偏知春氣暖

4                蟲聲新透綠窗紗

 

Notes:

 

*Form, Metre, and Rhyme:  The original is a 7-character quatrain 七言絕句 with a caesura after the fourth character.  This English rendition is in heptameter (7 beats or feet) also with a caesura after the fourth beat.  The original’s rhyme scheme is AAxA which is followed in this English rendition.

 

*Line 1:  does not mean “more”, and 更深 does not mean “more deep = deeper”.  is a two-hour night watch period based on the Chinese system of dividing the whole day into 12 two-hour periods (which, incidentally, are also called = hours).  Thus, we have for the “night watches”: 一更 (First Watch) to cover 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., 二更 (Second Watch), 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., 三更 (Third Watch), 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. (with midnight in the middle), 四更 (Fourth Watch), 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., and 五更 (Fifth Watch), 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.  There is no 六更 (Sixth Watch) as past 5 a.m., it is already dawn and morning.  Thus, 更深 means “deep into the night watches or hours” and is translated literally as “Deep in the night”.  To make sure it is much further on in the night than just the Third Watch, I had considered rendering it as “Well/ Long past midnight” but have rejected it for being less than faithful to the original.  月色 (moon; colour) is rendered as “the whitening moonlight” to give moonlight a colour to cover the word , which word can just mean “beautiful view/ scenery/ scene” as in 湖光山色 (= beautiful view of the lake and hills).  人家 (men; homes) is rendered literally as “our houses”.  半人家 is taken to depict a moon, before or after passing the meridian, shining on one side of the houses facing the moon and is, thus, rendered as “on our houses’ moonlit side” with the word “side” to translate (half). 

 

*Line 2:  北斗 (north; dipper or scoop) refers to an asterism 星群 of 7 stars (not planets) in the constellation 星座 of Ursa Major 大熊座in the northern sky.  It features a crooked line of 7 stars in the shape of a dipper (or scoop or ladle or plough or wain) and is, therefore, known as the Big Dipper or just Dipper.  Here, I have rendered it as “the Dipper-stars North”, with “-stars” added to make plain that this is a line about stars (while line 1 is about the moon), and with “North” and “Dipper-stars” inverted for a better rhythm.  I have done the same to 南斗 (south; dipper) in the same line which is rendered as “the Dipper-stars South”.  In ancient Chinese astronomy, 南斗 refers to an asterism of 6 stars in the southern sky which also features the shape of a dipper.  These south stars are in the constellation of Sagittarius 人馬座 but is not referred to as an asterism in Western astronomy.  (It may be of interest to note there exists another asterism of 7 stars in the northern sky in the constellation of Ursa Minor 小熊座 which is also shaped like a dipper and known as the Little Dipper, which is not of our concern.)  闌干 is translated literally as “railing” (= a crooked “line” of 7 stars).  I have not adopted the “horizontal” interpretation as these north stars are circumpolar stars circling the North Star (Polaris) and would appear as either largely horizontal or largely vertical (in fact, always slanting) depending on the time of the day and the season of the year.  They are never seen as rising and setting.  To the word “railing”, I have added “sky-high” to suggest the omni-presence of the Dipper-stars North in contrast to the Dipper-stars South which are not omni-present, rising from south-south-east and setting at south-south-west in the southern sky owing to earth’s self-rotation.  I have used “subside” to translate (slanting), as these south stars and other stars of the Sagittarius constellation, which are located near the southern horizon and moving west, would appear to the viewer in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere (which is where China was and is) to be subsiding westwards.

 

*Line 3:  今夜 (tonight) is rendered as “O tonight, ‘tis a night” to create 2 beats for the 7-beat line.  (inclined or prejudiced; know or aware) can reasonably be interpreted to mean either (i) 偏巧知道 “I happen to know”, or (ii) ()知道 “only now I know”, or (iii) 傾向於 知道 “prone to knowing”, but all of these interpretations miss the subtleties of the partiality of the word particularly in 偏心/// which are all expressions of favouritism.  I suspect and I speculate that, in this context, the poet has chosen the word to say he “takes special pleasure (in that spring has come)”.  I have, therefore, rendered 偏知 as “I am pleased to find”.  春氣暖 (spring; air; warm) is rendered as “so warm, the breath of spring”, with 氣   rendered as “breath” rather than “air” or “wind”. 

 

*Line 4:  蟲聲 is rendered as “As crickets rise a-chirping”, with the much more appealing word “crickets” to translate (insects), and with the onomatopoeic word “a-chirping” to render (sound).  The words 新透 (new; through) are covered by “anew” followed by “through”.  綠窗紗 (green; window; gauze) is rendered as “my window’s green gauze divide” with the word “divide” (understood as the “screen” made of green gauze mounted on the window) deployed to complete the “-ide” rhyme for lines 1, 2, and 4.


     

07 March 2022

吳錦祥 Ng Kam-Cheung Stephen: 無題 Untitled

Today, I am posting a quatrain written by Stephen Ng Kam-Cheung (吳錦祥) together with 2 translations of the quatrain done by William Sit Yu (薛瑀) and my humble self.  All 3 of us were residents of Ricci Hall in our undergraduate days at the University of Hong Kong.  We call ourselves "Riccians".  And in fact it is from messages in the WhatsApp chat-group "Riccians of the 1960s" of which all 3 of us are members, that I know of this poem and its translation.  With the author's and translator's kind permission, I am posting here on my blog; (1) Stephen Ng's quatrain, (2)William Sit's translation, and (3) my own translation (3) as follows:-


(1) Stephen Ng's original quatrain:

      吳錦祥: 無題

晚霞如火耀窗前

日落天邊海欲眠

朗月一輪隨夜上

無求無欲又明天


(2) William Sit's translation:

      Stephen Ng: Untitled

Twilight gilds panes on fire.

Sun woos skyline, dozy sea.

As night falls, full moon’s higher.

Urge not, want not, next day be.


(3) Andrew Wong's translation:

    Ng Kam-Cheung Stephen: Untitled

 Evening clouds like on fire aglow, dazzling my eyes, my window.

To the edge of the sky, the sun retires, the sea soon restful also.

A wheel of a full and silvery moon ascends as night descends.

 I seek not, covet not, rid of desires: content, as ever, tomorrow.


Without venturing into a comparison of the merits and/or demerits of the 2 translations, which I will defer to readers' decision, I will simply make a general observation that, insofar as versification is concerned, William's style and mine are radically different. For prosody, William counts the number of syllables, his lines above are all hepta-syllabic (7 syllables), a prosody known as syllabic verse which accords well with a syllabic language like French.  But as English is an accentual language, for prosody, it should be more natural to count the number of stresses or stressed syllables or beats, my lines are all in hepta-meter (7 feet or beats = 7 accented or stressed syllables), a prosody known as accentual verse.  For a fuller exposition, please consult the Epilogue to my book "60 Chinese Poems in English Verse".


I now return to my regular format and present to you my rendition of Stephen Ng's beautiful poem together with my translation notes.  I hope you will enjoy it.  


Ng Kam-Cheung Stephen: Untitled

 

1            Evening clouds like on fire aglow, dazzling my eyes, my window.

2            To the edge of the sky, the sun retires, the sea soon restful also.

3            A wheel of a full and silvery moon ascends as night descends.

4            I seek not, covet not, rid of desires: content, as ever, tomorrow.

 

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發

14 February 2022 (revised 15.2.2022; 17.2.2022; 20.2.2022; 22.2.2022; 25.2.2022)

Translated from the original - 吳錦祥: 無題

 

1            晚霞如火耀窗前

2            日落天邊海欲眠

3            朗月一輪隨夜上

4            無求無欲又明天

 

Notes:

 

*Form, Metre, and Rhyme:  The original is a 7-character quatrain 七言絕句 with a caesura or pause after the fourth character.  This English rendition is in heptameter (7 beats or feet) with a caesura after the fourth beat.  The rhyme scheme of the original is AAxA which is followed in this English rendition not with prefect rhyme words but with the assonance of the unstressed ‘ou’ sound.

 

*Line 1:  晚霞如火 (evening or night: rosy clouds; like; fire) is rendered as “Evening clouds like on fire aglow’, with “aglow” to cover the reddish, rosy colour of the evening clouds.  For the second half line 耀窗前 (dazzle; window; before), I have translated 耀 literally as “dazzling”, and have interpreted 窗前 (= before my window) to be inclusive of 眼前 (= before my eyes) and have, hence, rendered it as “(dazzling) my eyes, my window”.  This half line does not mean “brightening the front of my window” but should be taken to mean “a dazzling sight before my eyes viewed through my window”.

 

*Line 2:  日落天邊 (sun; descend: sky; edge) is rendered as “To the edge of the sky, the sun retires”, with “retires”, rather than “descends”, to translate , saving the word “descends” for its internal rhyme with “ascends” in the second half line.  海欲眠 (sea; wish; sleep) is rendered as “the sea soon restful also”, with “restful” (echoing “retires) to translate (sleep), and with “also” added for the “window (1)”, “also (2)”, “tomorrow (4)” assonance rhyme.  Here, the sixth character should not be taken to mean “wish” or “desire”, but to mean “about to” or “soon” or “on the verge of” as in the saying 搖搖欲墜 (= on the verge of falling).  欲眠 is, therefore, rendered as “soon restful”.  I suggest reading “soon” unstressed.

 

*Line 3:  朗月一輪 (clear; moon; one; wheel) is rendered as “A wheel of a full and silvery moon”, with “silvery” chosen to translate rather than “clear”.  隨夜上 (follow; night; rise) is translated literally as “ascends as night descends”.

 

*Line 4:  無求無欲 (no; seeking; no; desiring) is rendered as “I seek not, covet not”, to which I have added “rid of desires” to amplify “seek and covet not”, hinting at the idea of 知足 "content", a word used in the second half of my line in translation to link up the 2 half lines.  This second half line 又明 (again or in addition or in continuation or also ; next; day) is rendered as “content, as ever, tomorrow”, with “content” added to link up the 2 half lines as explained earlier, and with “as ever” used to render in the sense of “also or to continue”.  Furthermore, “as ever” best provides a link between the future “tomorrow” and the present and past, at least the present past, to mean that the state of mind of contentment is to continue.     

04 February 2022

顧況 Gu Kuang: 宮詞 五首 其二 Palace Poem, II of Five

Today, I am posting a quatrain by the Mid Tang dynasty poet 顧況 Gu Kuang --- No. 2 of his "Five Palace Poems" 宮詞 五首 其二 which is his only quatrain selected for the anthology "300 Tang Poems".  It is obviously a plaint about life in the palace, a joyous party upstairs and the persona of the poem all alone, sleepless and engulfed by the shadows cast by the moon.  Yet, no word of complaint nor of sadness is found in the poem, truly, a masterpiece of restraint and subtlety.  I do hope you will enjoy it.

  

Gu Kuang (725-814): Palace Poem, II of Five

 

1            From the grand tower halfway up the sky, came songs and music gay

2            With the chattery laughter of palace ladies, by the wind, all carried, my way.

3            Now shadows cast by the moon extended, the water-clock’s drip-drops heard;

4            My crystalline blind, O up I roll, to be close to the stars of the Milky Way.  

 

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發

14 January 2022 (revised 17.1.2022; 21.1.2022; 24.1.2022; 26.1.2022; 4.2.2022)

Translated from the original - 顧況: 宮詞 五首 其二

 

1            玉樓天半起笙歌

2            風送宮嬪笑語

3            月殿影開聞夜漏

4            水精簾捲近秋河

 

Notes:

 

*Form, Metre, and Rhyme:  The original is a 7-character quatrain 七言絕句 with a caesura after the fourth character.  This English rendition is in heptameter (7 feet of beats) with a caesura after the fourth beat.  The rhyme scheme in English is AAxA, as in the original. .

 

*Line 1:  玉樓 (jade or beautiful; tall building) is rendered descriptively as “the grand tower”, rather than as a building named “Jade Tower”, with “grand” to translate (in the sense of beautiful).  天半 (sky; half) is literally translated as “halfway up the sky”, which I have taken to qualify the building and not the music and songs.  起笙歌 (rise; pipe; song) is rendered as “came songs and music gay”, with “came” to render (rise), “music” to translate (the pipe, a woodwind musical instrument) which is taken to be a synecdoche using one musical instrument to stand for music, and with “gay” added for the “-ay” rhyme and for heightening the joy of those at the party to hint at the grief of the persona of the poem.

 

*Line 2:  The first 2 characters 風送 (wind; send or carry) which begin the line in Chinese, are rendered as “by the wind, all carried, my way” to end the line in the English rendition, with “all” and “my way” added to include the din of both the songs and music (line 1) and the chatter and laughter (line 2) and to indicate that the din of the party is being carried by the wind to the persona of the poem (= “my way”) who is not at the party.  The next 4 characters in the middle of the line 宮嬪笑語 (palace; ladies or concubines; laughter; chatter) are rendered as “the chattery laughter of palace ladies”, with “chattery laughter” to literally translate 笑語 (laughing and chattering).  The last character (not the conjunction ‘and’, but the verb ‘to follow or echo or respond or reply or mingle or mix or blend’) which ends the line in Chinese, is moved to begin the line in English and rendered as the preposition “With”, which, in my view, sufficiently suggests and covers, if not literally translates, the mingling of the chattery laughter (line 2) with the songs and music (line 1).  The whole line風送宮嬪笑語和 is, therefore, rendered as “With the chattery laughter of palace ladies, by the wind, all carried, my way”.  Alternatively, the line can be rendered as “With the ladies’ mingling (or echoing or blending) chattery laughter, by the wind, all carried, my way”.  This puts the verb “Mingling” in place, but at the expense of the word “palace” (to qualify the “ladies”) which should not be omitted.

 

*Line 3:  月殿 (moon; palace or court) is taken to refer to the moon or moonlight, not the legendary Moon Palace on the moon, and is rendered here as “the moon”.  (shadow) in 影開 is interpreted to mean shadows on the ground made by moonlight, and not the shadowy parts on the moon’s surface, and  (open or bloom) is rendered as “extended” which aptly describes the lengthening of the shadows as the moon moves west, slanting.  月殿影開 is, therefore, rendered as “Now shadows cast by the moon extended”, with “cast by” added to make my interpretation of shadows as “shadows on the ground” unambiguous, and with “Now” added to alert the reader to my framing lines 1 and 2 in the past tense (earlier: in the evening or night) and lines 3 and 4 in the present tense (later: deep in the night).  Please note line 3 is in the present tense as “extended” is a contraction of “have (‘ve) extended”, and “heard”, of “are (‘re) heard”.  聞夜漏 is rendered as “the water-clock’s drip-drops heard”, with “heard” to translate (hear), and “the water-clock’s drip-drops” to translate 夜漏 (night; leak or drip) which refers to the chronometric instrument 更漏 (water-clock or clepsydra) whose drippings are audible deep in the night.  Instead of drippings, I have chosen to use “drip-drops” to produce the alliteration of “dr-” in “drip-drops” and the assonance of “-clock’s” and “-drops”.  I suggest reading “-clock’s” unstressed to contain in one beat the 3 syllables in “water-clock’s”, and to keep the hemistich (half line) “the water-clock’s drip-drops heard” within 3 beats.

 

*Line 4:  秋河 (autumn; river) is one of the many names in Chinese of the “Milky Way”, and is rendered as such.  (Other names in Chinese include 銀河, 天河, 星河, 天漢, 銀漢, 河漢, the first of which being commonly used while the others are often found in literary writings, particularly poems.)  (adjective ‘near’, or verb ‘to approach’) is rendered as “to be close to”.  The question arises whether the poet wishes to be close to the (by definition, starry) Milky Way as a whole? or to specific but un-named stars of the Milky Way?  I have chosen the latter for its ambiguity.  近秋河 is, therefore, rendered as “to be close to the stars of the Milky Way”.  水精簾捲 (water; crystal; blinds; roll) is rendered as “My crystalline blind, O up I roll”.  I suggest reading the last word “Way” unstressed to contain in one beat the 3 syllables in “Milky Way”, and to keep the hemistich “to be close to the stars of the Milky Way” within 3 beats.



10 January 2022

白居易 Bai Juyi: 春詞 Song of Spring

Following my English rendition of 劉禹錫 Liu Yuxi's 春詞 和樂天 "Song of Spring: In Reply to Bai Juyi" posted here on 13 December 2021 (the last post), I am, today, posting my English rendition of 白居易 (style name 樂天) Bai Juyi's original poem 春詞 "Song of Spring".  

You will have noticed that: (1) I have failed to use the same English words to end the rhymed lines, in my translation of the line-end Chinese characters 樓, 愁 and 頭 in both poems.  For Liu's poem, I have used "descending", "tending" and "ascending", and for Bai's poem, "lodging", "showing" and "perching"; and (b) insofar as this (Bai's) poem is concerned, I have even failed to produce perfect feminine rhymes.  The first should not be regarded as a failure as it is well nigh impossible to achieve in translation.  The second  failure can be excused if, in search of perfect rhymes, sense is found to be sacrificed.  I believe one should be  prepared to accept assonance (same vowel sound) as near rhymes.  

I do hope you will find this, my English rendition of Bai Juyi's "Song of Spring" enjoyable.


Bai Juyi (772-846): Song of Spring

 

1            Flowerbeds in blossom, trees, a green sheen: her boudoir, a dainty   lodging.

2            Though spring is in the heart of her brows, her two eyes, a sadness   showing.

3            She stands by the railing, sidewise leaning, her back to the parrot stand,

4            Pondering on why she turns not her head, to face the bird, there,   perching.

 

28 December 2021 (revised 1.1.2022; 7.1.2022)

Translated from the original - 白居易: 春詞

 

1            低花樹映小妝樓

2            舂入眉心两點愁

3            斜倚欄杆背鸚鵡

4            思量何事不回頭

 

Notes:

 

*Form, Metre, and Rhyme:  The original is a 7-character quatrain 七言絕句 with a caesura after the fourth character.  This English rendition is in heptameter (7 beats or feet) with a caesura after the fourth beat.  The original’s rhyme scheme is AAxA which is followed in this English rendition, not in the perfect rhyme words, but in the assonance of the unstressed “-ing”.

 

*Line 1:  低花 (low; flower) is rendered as “Flowerbeds in blossom” with the word “bed” added to translate 低花 as flowers blooming on the ground level, hence, in flowerbeds.  樹映 (tree: reflection of light or image of something in the light) is rendered as “trees, a green sheen”, with “sheen” to literally translate , and with “green” added to give the trees the colour of their leaves in the sun.  小妝樓 (little; put on make-up; building) is rendered as “her boudoir, a dainty lodging”, with “boudoir” and “lodging” to cover 妝樓, and with “dainty” (= small and elegant) to cover and to add a sense of elegance to the building concerned.

 

*Line 2:  春入 (spring; enters) is rendered as “Though spring is in” with “Though” added to lead to “sadness” at the end of the line.  I suggest reading “Though spring is in” with “spring” and “in” stressed (i.e., as 2 iambs, as daDum daDum).  眉心 (eyebrows; heart) is translated literally as “the heart of her brows”, rather than the academically proper word “glabella” (= the gap between the 2 eyebrows), in order to keep in this English rendition the emotive word “heart”.  (sorrow) is rendered as “a sadness showing”.  两點 (two; dots), in this context, obviously refers to the pupils of the two eyes, and not just two dots.  两點愁 is, therefore, rendered as “her two eyes, a sadness showing ”, with “eyes” used rather than “pupils” and with “showing” added to complete the meaning..

 

*Line 3:  斜倚欄杆 (slant; lean; railing) is rendered as “She stands by the railing, sidewise leaning” with the verb “stands” added to make it a 4-beat half-line; and 背鸚鵡 (back; parrot) is rendered as “her back to the parrot stand” with the noun “stand” (= a stand to hold the parrot) added to make the second half-line a 3-beat half-line, and to make a whole line of 7 beats, consistent with the other lines.

 

*Line 4:  思量何事不回頭 (think; consider; what; business; not; turn; head) is rendered as “Pondering on why she turns not her head”, after considering “Pondering for what …”  With this, although the meaning of the line is complete, this rendition falls far short of the 7-beat line-length requirement.  I have, therefore, added “to face the bird, there, perching” to end the line and the poem.  I hope you will find this addition neutrally descriptive of what is implied in the context, e.g.., my “to face” is more neutral than “to greet” or “to meet”, and my “perching”, more neutral than “talking’, “chattering”, or “waiting”.

 

*Alternative Rendition:  In the interest of satisfying the AAxA rhyme scheme requirement, I have attempted an alternative rendition using the perfect feminine rhyme of “-elling”, with “dwelling” instead of “lodging” to end line 1, “telling” instead of “showing” to end line 2, and “yelling” instead of “perching” to end line 4.  This I have abandoned as I find the line 4 rhyme word “yelling” a little contrived.  Parrots naturally squawk and screech and learn to talk and chatter through frequent exposure to human speech.  I suppose they might well learn to yell.  But the question is: would “yelling” be as normal as “chattering” and, even less so, as “perching”? 




13 December 2021

劉禹錫 Liu Yuxi: 春詞 和樂天 Song of Spring: In Reply to Bai Juyi

Today, I am posting my rendition of 劉禹錫 Liu Yuxi's 7-character quatrain 春詞 "Song of Spring".  This was written in reply to 白居易 Bai Juyi's original quatrain of the same title and the same end-rhyme (in fact, the same end-line characters).  For ready reference, I reproduce below the original poem by Bai Juyi (772-846) (which I have not translated) and Liu Yuxi's harmonizing reply:

白居易: 春詞                 劉禹錫: 春詞 和樂天

低花樹映小妝樓     1     新妝宜面下朱樓    

春入眉心兩點愁     2     深鎖春光一院愁

斜倚欄杆背鸚鵡     3     行到中庭數花朶

思量何事不回頭     4     蜻蜓飛上玉搔頭

 

Liu Yuxi (772-842): Song of Spring: In Reply to Bai Juyi

 

1             Rouged and powdered befitting her face, from her crimson bower descending.

2             A scenic springtide locked deep in the courtyard, therein to a sadness, tending.

3             Strolling the courtyard, on arriving mid-court, she stops to count the flowers.

4             Ah, there flies a darting, hovering dragonfly, to her hairpin of jade ascending.

 

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發

3 December 2021 (revised 6.12.2021; 7.12.2021 9.12.2021; 10.12.2021; 11.12.2021; 13.12.2021)

Translated from the original - 劉禹錫: 春詞 和樂天

 

1                新妝宜面下朱樓

2                深鎖春光一院愁

3                行到中庭數花朶

4                蜻蜓飛上玉搔頭

 

Notes:

 

*Form, Metre, and Rhyme:  The original is a 7-character  quatrain 七言絕句 with a caesura after the fourth character.  This English rendition is in heptameter (7 beats or feet) with a caesura after the fourth beat.  The rhyme scheme of the original is AAxA which is adhered to in this English rendition with the perfect feminine rhyme of “-ending”.

 

*Title:  春詞 (spring; verse) is rendered as “Song of Spring”. The word (harmonize) when placed before the name of another poet indicates it is a poem written to harmonize with a poem written by the other poet.  The harmonizing poem shares with the original poem the same title and rhyme.  樂天 (pronounced “letian”, meaning “optimistic”) is the style or courtesy name of  白居易 Bai Juyi.  和樂天 is, hence, rendered as “In Reply to Bai Juyi”.

 

*Line 1:  新妝 (new; makeup) should, in my view, be taken to mean “just finished putting on her makeup” rather than “putting on a new dress” and is, therefore, rendered here as “Rouged and powdered” with the past participle tense to translate (new).  宜面 (suit; face) is translated literally as “befitting her face”.  (go down) is rendered as “from … descending”, to begin the “-ending” rhyme.   朱樓 (red; building with at least one more floor upstairs) is taken to mean her room (hence, bower) is upstairs in the red (hence, crimson) building and is, therefore, rendered as “her crimson bower”.

 

*Line 2:  春光 (spring; light or scenery) is taken not to mean ”light”, but “scenery” as in the phrase 湖光山色 (lake; light; mountain; colour) where the words (light) and (colour) are used to  refer to the beautiful scenery of the lake and the mountains.  春光 is, therefore, rendered as “A scenic springtide”.  深鎖 (deep; lock) is translated literally as “locked deep”, after considering “locked fast”.  I have also, for this phrase, considered but abandoned coining a word “y-locked”, with the prefix “y-“ to give the past participle “locked” a perfective and intensifying force making “y-locked” to mean the same as “locked fast” or “locked deep”.  I have, however, chosen to be more literal; and to my “locked deep”, I have added “in the courtyard” to indicate the location.  一院愁 (one or whole; courtyard; sad) is rendered as “therein to a sadness, tending” with “therein” to translate一院 without repeating “courtyard”, and with “to a sadness, tending” (= tending to a kind of sadness without naming it) to translate and for the “-ending” rhyme.

 

*Line 3:  行到中庭 (walk; reach; middle; courtyard) is rendered as “Strolling the courtyard, on arriving mid-court”, with “Strolling” to translate , “arriving” to translate , “mid-court” to translate 中庭, and the addition of “the courtyard” after “Strolling”.  數花朶 (count; flower) is rendered as “she stops to count the flowers”, with “stops” added.

 

*Line 4:  蜻蜓 (dragonfly) is rendered as “a darting, hovering dragonfly” with  “darting, hovering” added to make it possible for the line to be of 4 beats followed by 3 beats.   飛上玉搔頭 (fly; up; jade; hairpin) is rendered as “flies … to her hairpin of jade ascending”.  The addition of the 2 words “darting” and “hovering” is not simply for their being descriptive of the dragonfly’s ability to fly fast and to hover.  My rendition of the whole line as “Ah, there flies a darting, hovering dragonfly, to her hairpin of jade ascending” gives a motion-picture-like scene: “A dragonfly flying quickly and slowly to the flowers and the persona, hovering over the flowers, then ascending to the persona’s jade hairpin.”



 

Classical Chinese Poems in English

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