18 May 2022

葉清臣 Ye Qingchen - 寄調: 賀聖朝 Tune: He Shen Cao 題: 留別 Title: Farewell but Please Remain

Today, I am posting my rendition of a "tune lyric" or "ci" 詞 by the Song dynasty poet Ye Qingchen 葉清臣.  The "tune lyric" is a genre of Chinese poetry in lines of varying lengths and can be known as long-and-short-lined poems.  To know a bit more about "tune lyric", please proceed to my first note below.

Robert Nicol's Rendition

My rendition is done in response to Mr. Robert Nicol of Melbourne, Australia who, in April, sent me by email 2 versions of his rendition of the same poem.  With his kind permission, I now reproduce below his version 2:

"Congratulations to the Holy Dynasty and Farewell" - Ye Qingchen   (English translation by Robert Nicol, Version 2 , 22 Apr 2022)

1  Dinner's fine wine was meant to ensnare you.

2  Don't hasten home.

3  I'm three parts spring, two parts sadness, one part wind and rain.

4  How many flowers have bloomed and withered?

5  But let's relax and sing, not talk of sad things.

6  I know not where we can meet, come next year's peonies.

The original poem in Chinese is shown below after my rendition of the same.  You will note that Mr. Robert Nicol's rendition is in 6 lines of varying lengths and is in unrhymed free verse.  This is probably because he does not know the original is (a) written in 9 lines, and (b) features a rhyme scheme, which is hard to detect (even for native speaking Chinese) as sounds have changed through time.  But it may also be due to his intent to be as concise as possible (as poetry is no prose) and to write in unrhymed free verse.  In any case, Mr. Nicol has been able to fully cover the substance of the original.  Below is my rendition.

Andrew Wong's Rendition


Ye Qingchen (1000-1049)

Tune: He Shen Cao (Homage to the Imperial Court)

Title: Farewell but Please Remain


1             With my finest wine to fill your cup, I urge you to please remain,

2             Not to unduly hasten to leave, I pray.

3             Of the sweet springtime made of three, two are tinged with sadness,

4             And one, what’s more, all bleak with wind and rain.


5             Flowers blossom, yet flowers demise ---

6             How few, in all, are the flowering days?

7             So, aloud, let us sing! Of sad things, air no plaints!

8             Be merry, because we know not, we, next year when peonies smile,

9             O where, if ever, shall meet each other again.


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

23 March 2022 (revised 30.3.2022; 13.4.2022; 21.4.2022; 4.5.2022; 16.5.2022; 17.5.2022)

Translated from the original - 葉清臣 - 寄調: 賀聖朝  : 留別


1             滿斟留君住

2             莫匆匆歸去

3             三分春色二分愁

4             更一分風雨


5             花開花謝

6      都來幾許

7      且高歌休訴

8          不知來嵗牡丹時

9      再相逢何處



*Form, Metre, and Rhyme:  The original is a poem in the genre of “ci” which are the lyrics written to specific tunes which, their music being lost, should be understood as “lyric patterns”.  So, “To the tune of …” means “To the lyric pattern of …”, and “ci” can, therefore, be translated into English as “tune lyrics”.  As “tune lyrics” feature a mingling of long and short verse lines, they can, therefore, be also referred to as “long-short-lined verses”.  The original is a tune lyric to the tune of “He Shen Cao” which is a lyric pattern of 49 characters in two stanzas (24 and 25 respectively).  The long-short-lined length pattern of the original is: 7 5/7 5// 4 4/5 7 5 (numerals stand for number of words, double slash for stanza break).  This English rendition follows strictly the same length pattern but with a count of feet or beats or stresses (not syllables).  I have, in addition, provided a medial caesura or pause for all lines: after the fourth for 7-beat lines, and after the second for 5- and 4-beat lines.  The rhyme scheme of the original is: AA/xA // xA/AxA, with both stanzas having the same rhyme.  Although the characters in the original do not sound like rhymes by current day pronunciation (in either Chinese Putonghua or Chinese Cantonese), I think it worthwhile to emulate the original rhyme scheme.  Failing to find perfect rhymes, I have, nonetheless, succeeded in using the assonance of the ‘ei’ sound in “remain” (line 1), “pray” (line 2), “rain” (line 4), “days” (line 6), “plaints” (line 7), and “again” (line 9) to satisfy the rhyme scheme.


*Line 1:  滿斟 (full: pour) is rendered as “to fill your cup”, and (green or black; wine), rendered as “With my finest wine”.  Here, I have taken not to mean “green” but to mean a colour close to “black”.  I have also taken to allude to a fine wine called 綠蟻 (green or black; ants), hence, a fine wine, and is rendered  as “with my finest wine”.  留君住 (keep; you; stay) is rendered as “I urge you to please remain”.


*Line 2:  歸去 (do not; hurry; hurry; return or go back; leave or away) is rendered as “Not to unduly hasten to leave, I pray” , with “Not to” to translate , “unduly hasten” to render 匆匆, and “to leave” to render , and with “I pray” added.  Please note I have not been able to reproduce the reduplication of 匆匆 in my translation as I find genuine reduplications such as “Not to unduly hurry, hurry away” and “Not to unduly hasten away in haste” less than satisfactory.  On 歸去, as the poem is about the friend leaving without indicating whether he is going back to his home or to his post (job), I have rendered 歸去 simply as “(unduly hasten) to leave”, instead of “(unduly hurry) home (in haste)”, keeping the destination unspecified.  “I pray” is added to produce the assonance rhyme.


*Lines 3 and 4:  I have rendered 三分春色 (three; parts; spring; colour) in line 3 as “Of the sweet springtime made of three”, with “the sweet springtime” to translate 春色, and “made of three”, to translate 三分 to mean the three months of spring with “parts” or “months” taken as understood.   二分愁 (two; parts; sadness) which follows in line 3, is rendered as “two are tinged with sadness” which says two-thirds of the 3-month springtime are tinged with sadness.  一分風雨 (more; one; part; wind; rain) in line 4 is rendered as “And one, what’s more, all bleak with wind and rain”, with “what’s more” to translate , and with “all bleak” added to depict the saddening effects of “wind and rain”.


*Lines 5 and 6:  Line 5 花開花謝 is translated literally as “Flowers blossom, yet flowers demise”, with “yet” added.  Line 6 都來 (tallying all: the result of tallying [as in 醒來 wake up]) is simply rendered as “in all”.  幾許 (how many) which follows, is a rhetorical question with “how many” to mean “how few” and is rendered as such.  Line 6 of the original poem is silent on the “of what” (甚麼) of either “in all” (都來) or “how few” (幾許).  As line 6 is the second line of a couplet the opening line of which (line 5) is on flowers, I have taken the “of what” to be “days of flowers in bloom” and have, hence, rendered line 6 都來幾許 as “How few, in all, are the flowering days”.


*Line 7:  且高歌 (in the circumstances; loud; sing) is rendered as “So, aloud, let us sing”, with “So … let us” to translate 休訴 (not, or stop; complain, or talk) is rendered as “Of sad things, (let’s [omitted]) air no plaints”, with “Of sad things” added to make sense of the line and to make it a 5-beat line.


*Line 8:  不知 (not; know) is rendered in the first half line as “Be merry, because we know not, we, …”, with (a) “we know not” to literally translate 不知, and with (b) “Be merry, because” added to link line 8 up to line 7 and down to line 9.  I have also inserted in the line a second “we” in “because we know not, we”.  Technically, it is moved up from line 9: “O where if ever, (we) shall meet each other again”.  I suggest reading this second “we” in line 8, stressed.  來嵗牡丹時 (coming; year; peonies; time) is rendered as “next year when peonies smile”, with “smile” chosen after considering “bloom”.


*Line 9:  再相逢何處 (again; mutual; meet; where) is rendered as “O where, if ever, (we) shall meet each other again”, with “we” moved to line 8, and with “if ever” added.  The addition of “if ever” is crucial for a proper understanding of the state of mind of the poet.  If he were simply wondering “where” they would meet, he would have written 不知 何處再相逢 (= don’t know … where we’ll meet again).  But he had written 不知 再相逢何處 (= don’t know … we’ll meet again, where), with 何處 (where) placed at the end, somewhat like an afterthought to the implied question of 不知 是否 (yes or no) 再相逢 (= don’t know … if we’ll ever meet again), and this state of mind is best covered by the “O where, if ever, shall meet” formulation.  For better effects, I suggest reading “if” stressed and “ever” unstressed.


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




*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





(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




*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




*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.


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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