05 January 2010

王维 Wang Wei: 雜詩 A Poem of Sundry Lines

Here is my latest translation. I have chosen January which is when winter-sweet and plum or mume flowers are blooming.

Wang Wei (701-761): (A Poem in a Miscellany)
A Poem of Sundry Lines  
(revised 29.9.2014)

1 Sir, from our hometown, you've just arrived,
2 Of things at home, I should think you know.
3 That day you left: by my latticed window, were
4 The wintersweet flowers, beginning to blow?

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黄宏發
21st December 2009 (revised 22.12.09; 23.12.09)
Translated from the original - 王維: 雜詩

1 君自故鄉來
2 應知故鄉事
3 來日绮窗前
4 寒梅著花未

• This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.
• Lines 1and 2: Instead of “my”, I have used “our” in line 1 to make clear that the visitor is a native of the same hometown, thus, familiar with “things at home” in line 2. I have inverted the order of the 2 phrases in line 2 and, to end it, I had considered the literal translation of 應知 as “you ought to/should know” on the one hand and the implied meaning of “I would/should love to know” on the other, but have decided for the polite conversational rendition of “I should think you know” (not “I think you should know”).
• Line 3: I have decided to use “latticed window”, as a “brocade/brocaded/silken window” makes no sense and any window with paper/silk/brocade mounted must first be latticed.
• Line 4: I have used “wintersweet” 蠟/臘梅 to translate 寒梅 “winter plum”. Although 蠟/臘梅 (chimonanthus praecox) and 梅 (the Chinese/Japanese plum, prunus mume) are different plants, they have a lot in common. Both are native to China, both have fragrant flowers, and both blossom in winter. I have chosen to follow a Chinese folksong entitled” 踏雪尋梅” which runs 雪霽天晴朗 (Snow has stopped, the sky is clear) 臘梅處處香 (The wintersweet’s fragrance is everywhere) … and which makes explicit, at least in this case, that 梅 (literally Chinese plum or mume) in the title refers to 蠟/臘梅 (wintersweet).

Classical Chinese Poems in English


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