05 October 2009

王翰 Wang Han: 涼州詞 Song of Liangzhou (The Battlefront)

Azurino wrote the following lines on 4 August 2009 in his comments on my August 2009 post ("Peach Blossoms at the Dalin Temple" by Bai Juyi):

王翰 《涼州曲》
Grapewine I would like to taste,
have to go yet I would crave.
Thou dost not tease drunk soldiers of all,
Long ago few come back from war.

Encouraged by Azurino's attempt, I promised I would give this Wang Han 王翰 poem a try. Here is my rendition:-

Wang Han (687-735?): Song of Liangzhou (The Battlefront)

1  A grape-wine so fine, a cup that gleams at night,
2  To drink on I’d love, but for the summons to fight.
3  Sneer not, O jeer not, if in battle, drunken, I lie,
4  How many, we soldiers, ever came home all right?

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)          譯者: 黃宏發
21 September 2009 (revised 22.9.09; 23.9.09; 24.9.09)
Translated from the original - 王翰: 涼州詞

1  葡萄美酒夜光杯
2  欲飲琵琶馬上催
3  醉卧沙場君莫笑
4  古來征戰幾人回

* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.
* Line 2: I have interpreted 欲飲 to mean “wish to continue to drink” which make better sense than “wish to begin to drink”, hence, “To drink on I’d love”. I have omitted translating 琵琶 “pipa” (being a musical instrument somewhat like a lute) and 馬上 “mounted on horseback” (being how the “pipa” was played in the Chinese western frontier to serve as a bugle call to summon the soldiers). The meaning of “cannot drink (on) because of the (urging and urgent) summons” is fully covered by translating 催 as “but for the summons to fight”.
* Line 3: I have translated 沙場 “battleground/field” as simply “in battle”
* Line 4: I have translated 征戰 “going to war/battle” as simply “we soldiers”. I have added “all right” to add the very reasonable meaning of “safe and sound” and, obviously, to complete the rhyme.

Classical Chinese Poems in English


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