24 April 2008

李白 Li Bai: 獨坐敬亭山 Sitting Alone at Mount Jingting

The following translation of the poem "Sitting Alone at Mount Jingting" by the Chinese poet Li Bai (701-762) was written on 26 November 2007, last revised on 5 December 2007:-

Li Bai (701-762):  Sitting Alone at Mount Jingting

1  Vanished are the birds upon soaring high,
2  Save a cloud solitary, floats freely by.
3  Tired not of reciprocating one another's gaze,
4  Thou, and thou only, Mount Jingting and I.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
26th November 2007 (revised 5.12.2007)
Translated from the original - 李白: 獨坐敬亭山

1  衆鳥高飛盡
2  孤雲獨去閒
3  相看兩不厭
4  只有敬亭山


*I am grateful to 施頴洲 for his "high(line 1)-by(line 2)-I(line 4)" rhyme in his translation of the same poem which he entitled "Li Po: Sitting Alone by Mount Ching-ting" on pp.66-67 of his "Tang and Song Poetry -- Chinese-English" 中英對照讀唐詩宋詞, 九歌出版社, 台北 Taipei, 2006.

*Line 3: I had originally translated the line as "Tired not of the company we two keep" but have decided to stick to the "gaze" formulation. I have used "one another's gaze" (which is grammatically correct despite popular belief) as "each other's gaze" sounds a bit harsh.

*Line 4: I have used the archaic "thou" instead of "you" faintly hinting at the "I-Thou" vis-a-vis the "I-It" relationship differntiated by Martin Buber in his book "I and Thou" hoping to truly personify Mount Jingting.

Now, back to my last (March 2008) post, I have now further revised my translation of "House in the Bamboo Grove" by Wang Wei (701-761) as follows:-

1  Alone I sit in the shade of the bamboo trees,
2  My strings I pluck, then long and loud I sing.
3  Deep in the forest, none knows I exist,
4  None but the moon, to me she comes a-shining.


*I am grateful to William P. Coleman who recently corresponded with me at length in his blog http://williampcoleman.wordpress.com on his and my versions of the poem. My use of "shade" instead of "bowers" in line 1 and "strings" instead of "zither" in line 2 owe much to his criticism.

Now, further back to my February 2008 post, I have now decided to revert to the onomatopoeiac word "pitter-patter" in line 3 of "A Morning in Spring" by Meng Haoran (689-740), thus:-

In spring I sleep unaware morning is here,
From near then far, trilling songbirds I hear.
In the night's pitter-pattering of winds and rains,
How many blossoms fallen? Not few, I fear!


* I am grateful to Lily Yam Kwan who urged me to reconsider "In the din of".

*Line 1: I have deleted the two commas in the line.

Classical Chinese Poems in English


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