18 February 2009

王昌齡 Wang Changling: 芙蓉樓送辛漸 At the Lotus Inn to Bid Adieu to Xin Jian

I hope you will enjoy this rendition, particularly "My heart is ice immaculate, abiding in a vessel pristine" to translate "一片冰心在玉壺".

Wang Changling (698-757): At the Lotus Inn to Bid Adieu to Xin Jian

1 Tonight, into Wu, o’er the River, it rains of sleet so keen;
2 Come dawn alone you’ll depart, by the hills of Chu in between.
3 If my kin and kith in Louyang, should after me they ask, well
4 My heart is ice immaculate, abiding in a vessel pristine.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黄宏發
11th January 2009 (revised 13.1.09; 14.1.09; 15.1.09; 19.1.09; 18.2.09)
Translated from the original - 王昌齡: 芙蓉樓送辛漸

1 寒雨連江(天)夜入吳
2 平明送客楚山孤
3 洛陽親友如相問
4 一片冰心在玉壺

* The original is in 7-character lines. This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet). The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original.
* Title: I have taken 芙蓉 to refer to 水芙蓉 “lotus” rather than 木芙蓉 or 木槿 “hibiscus”, hence, “the Lotus Inn” to name the inn/restaurant situated at the north-western corner of the city wall of Zhenjiang 鎮江 on the south bank of and closest to the River 長江.
* Line 1: I have taken 夜入吳 “entering Wu at night” to mean 寒雨 “sleet” and not the poet or his friend Xin Jian or both of them entering Wu.
* Line 2: I have taken 楚山孤 (Chu hills alone/desolate) to mean the poet’s friend Xin Jian travelling through the hills of Chu “alone” and not to mean the “desolate” hills of Chu.
* Line 3: I had considered “family and friends” but have decided for “kin and kith” as the word “family” suggests wife and children which I do not believe is the poet’s meaning. I had considered “say”, “pray”, “oh” and “ah” as a connective, but have decided for “well”. Perhaps, I can do without the connective.
* Line 4: The image here is obviously 冰-ice清-clean玉-jade潔- clean. I have, therefore, added “immaculate/pure” to explain “ice” and omitted “jade” (which in this context should be “white jade” 白玉, but “jade” 玉 standing alone creates a mistaken green image) in favour of a “clean vessel”, hence, “vessel pristine”. I had considered “Like ice immaculate is my heart”, “My heart is like ice immaculate”, “As pure as ice is my heart”, “Pure like ice is my heart” and “Immaculate like ice is my heart”, but have decided for “My heart is ice immaculate”. I had considered “alive”, “vibrant”, “throbbing”, “vibrating” to go with “in a vessel pristine” so as to dispel any image of an “icy, cold heart” but decided that the adjectives “immaculate/pure” and “pristine” are powerful enough and that “alive” etc. would add too much to the meaning. I had then considered the plainer and more neutral words of “held”, “kept”, “laid”, “resting”, “lying” and “sitting” and have decided for “abiding”.


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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