01 April 2010

杜牧 Du Mu: 清明 Qingming, Early April

It is again early April, a season of mizzles and gloom. This must be the right time to post my rendition of Du Mu's quatrain "Qingming". Here we go.

Du Mu (803-852): Qingming, (the Fifth of) Early (revised 5.4.13) April

1  (Qingming the Fifth of April, a season of mizzles and gloom,)
    It is Qingming, early April, a season of mizzles and gloom, 
    (revised 5.4.13)
2  Away from home, a wayfarer, faring into gloom and doom.
3  (Oh, where can be found a tavern, my good lad, if I may ask?)
    O where can be found a tavern, my good lad, if I may ask? 
    (revised 5.4.13)
4  (There, points the herd-boy, to a village where apricots bloom.)
    There! points the herd-boy to a village where apricots bloom. 
    (revised 5.4.13)

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)         譯者: 黃宏發
16th December 2009 (revised 17.12.09; 18.12.09; 21.12.09; 22.12.09; 4.1.10; 5.1.10; 6.1.10; 7.1.10; 8.1.10)
Translated from the original - 杜牧: 清明

1  清明時節雨紛纷
2  路上行人欲斷魂
3  借問酒家何處有
4  牧童遙指杏花村


* This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original.

* Title and line 1: “Qingming” 清明 is a Chinese festival (for family reunion and visiting ancestral graves) which falls on the 5th (occasionally 4th or 6th) of April. I have, therefore, included “the Fifth of April” in both the title and line 1. I had considered dropping “Qingming” altogether from line 1, e.g. “’Tis again the Fifth of April” or “’Tis again early April”, but have decided otherwise.  Revised 5.4.2013:  I have now decided for "It is Qingming, early April" and "Qingming, Early April" for the title.

* Lines 1 and 2: The word “season” 時節 in line 1 refers to a period of time around the festival day, e.g. Christmas season, and does not mean one of the four seasons.
In line 1, I have added the word “gloom” obviously for the rhyme, but can also be justified as giving notice to and reinforcing “gloom and doom” in line 2 which translates 斷魂 (dispirited). I had used “I’m soaked/steeped in” and “I’m, alas, in” to translate 欲 (which means “on the verge of” or “about to”, and not “wish/desire/want”), but have decided for just “faring into” without “I’m”.

* Line 3: I had used “Oh, where can be found (can I find) a tavern, my despondent (dampened) spirits to lift?”, “Where, oh, where, I wonder, can a tavern somehow be found?”, and “Where, oh, where, I wonder, can a tavern be found? I ask.”, but have now decided for “Oh, where can be found a tavern, my good lad, if I may ask?” with “if I may ask” to translate 借問 and “good lad” added to pave the way for the herd-boy in line 4.  Revised 5.4.13:  I have revised "Oh, where" to read "O where".

* Line 4: I had considered “Thither” and “Yonder” but have decided for “There” which, though not closest to 遙 (far), suffices and which rhymes with “where” in line 3 (perhaps also line 4). I had considered “says”, but have decided to use the literal “points” to translate 指.  Revised 5.4.2013:  I have deleted the second comma and changed the first to an exclamation mark.


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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