02 January 2009

李白 Li Bai: 黄鶴樓送孟浩然之廣陵 At the Yellow Crane Tower to Bid Meng Haoran Bon Voyage

Happy New Year! This is the 2nd day of 2009 and I am posting 2 renditions of Li Bai's "Yellow Crane Tower" so as to report to you how I failed in my first attempt of March 2007 soon after I picked up the hobby. Although I never posted it, I did share it with some of my friends. As if to comfort myself, I called it unorthodox. They agreed probably for the same reason.

Li Bai (701—762): At the Yellow Crane Tower: to Bid Meng Haoran Bon Voyage to Guangling

1 At the Tower of Yellow Crane, my friend, to the west you said goodbye,
2 In this misty, flowery early spring, for Yangzhou downstream you ply.
3 A speck, a silhouette is your lonely sail, to the verdant hills receding, till
4 In my eyes there’s only the long, Long River, rolling to the verge of the sky.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黄宏發
19th December 2008 (revised 22.12.08; 23.12.08; 29.12.08)
Translated from the original - 李白: 黄鶴樓送孟浩然之廣陵

1  故人西辭黄鶴樓
2  煙花三月下揚州
3  獨帆遠影碧山(空)盡
4  唯見長江天際流


* This English rendition is in heptameter (7 metrical feet) to emulate the original 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original. This in fact is the first poem I attempted since picking up the hobby in March 2007. This first attempt, revised up to August 2007, was never published and was abandoned as it is far too unorthodox. It is, however, reproduced below in the note on the abandoned translation to record my failure.

* Title: “Yellow Crane Tower” or “Tower of Yellow Crane” is in present-day Wuhan in Hubei Province to the west of “Guangling” or “Yangzhou”. Meng Haoran, also a poet, was a friend of Li Bai’s. Guangling is present-day Yangzhou in Jiangsu Province and was then also known as Yangzhou, hence, its appearance in the text in line 2.

* Line 2: I had considered “the mists and blossoms of March and April” but have decided to use “this misty, flowery early spring”to translate 煙花三月, 三月 being the third month on the lunar calendar. Other translations have vatriously adopted “March” or “April”.“Yangzhou” can be replaced by “the City”or “the Grand City” or even “Youngborough”, which I do not prefer.

* Line 3: I have adopted the 碧山 “verdant hills” version instead of the 碧空 “heavens azure” or “blue void” version. I had considered “fading into the verdant hills” and “to the verdant hills you recede”, but have decided for “to the verdant hills receding”.

* Line 4: The word “my” should be pronounced unstressed as “mi”. The first “long (長)” is added to recognize that it was the poet’s conscious choice to describe the river as long. He could have described it as “grand (大)”. 江 (river) was the original name of this particular river. With this first “long”, the second “Long” should be unstressed.

* The abandoned translation of March 2007 revised up to August 2007:

1.1 Alas! my friend, for years my best,
1.2 You bade farewell to your native west,
1.3 At the Yellow Crane Tower, we parted.
2.1 Willows are misting, flowers in splendour,
2.2 In this third month on the lunar calendar,
2.3 Downstream to Yangzhou, you departed.
3.1 The solitary sail for you they set,
3.2 By now, is but a distant silhouette,
3.3 Fading into the hills and heavens azure.
4.1 And the only sight remaining clear,
4.2 Is the vista of the River long and drear,
4.3 Rolling to where the horizons obscure.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
29th March 2007 (revised 4.4.07; 10.4.07; 26.4.07; 10.5.07; 14.5.07 27.07:17.7.07; 18.7.07; 23.7.07; 30.7.07; 14.8.07)


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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