02 July 2010

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

This, in fact, is the first classical Chinese poem I attempted translating when I first began in earnest in March 2007 to pursue this ongoing hobby of translating classical Chinese poems into English. I was hesitant about what I wrote (please see my ultimate note) as I was still in search of an appropriate classical or quasi-classical form in English for the Chinese quatrain 绝句. This I soon found (grateful to 施颖洲's 中英對照讀唐詩宋詞 Tang and Song Poetry: Chinese-English 臺北:九歌 Taipei: Chiuko 2006 and, of course, to Edward FitzGerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam 1859) in (1) adherence to the original rhyme scheme of AAXA (or XAXA, if original), and (2) 4 lines of equal length counting beats or stresses or accents. I made a new attempt in December 2008 which is essentially the current version. I had forgotten I have yet to post it. But thanks to correspondence on this blog between Huy, Frank and myself in June 2010 (please see my January 2008 post, my first post) in which Huy asked for my version of the Yellow Crane Tower and, thinking he meant 李白 Li Bai's poem, I promised to post it in July 2010. It turned out he meant 崔灏 Cui Hao's and Frank understood him right. Anyhow, as promised, here is my rendition of Li Bai's Yellow Crane Tower (Cui Hao's which is an octet of 8 lines will have to wait):-

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

1 At the Yellow Crane Tower, my friend, to the west you said goodbye;
2 In this misty, flowery glorious spring, downstream for Yangzhou you ply.
3 A speck, a silhouette, your solitary sail, toward the verdant hills receding, till
4 My eyes but descry the grand 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; 19.2.09; 9.6.10; 10.6.10)
Translated from the original - 李白: 黄鶴樓送孟浩然之廣陵

1 故人西辭黃鶴樓
2 煙花三月下揚州
3 孤帆遠影碧山(空)盡
4 惟見長江天際流


* This English rendition is in heptameter (7 metrical feet) to emulate the original 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AAXA 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 or posted 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 the 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, which was then also known as Yangzhou, hence, its appearance in the text in line 2.

* Line 1: I had used “bade goodbye”, but have now decided for “said goodbye”.

* Line 2: 三月 is the third month on the lunar Chinese calendar which is mid-spring. I had considered “the mists and blossoms of March and April”, but have decided to use “this misty, flowery glorious spring” to translate 煙花三月. The word “ply” is used not in the sense of “to sail/go periodically, to and fro, between certain places” but “to direct/steer one’s course for a certain destination” and should be used with “for”. In plain English, the line reads “…, you ply for Yangzhou downstream”.

* 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/waning into the verdant hills” and “to/toward/towards the verdant hills recedes/you recede”, but have decided for “toward the verdant hills recedeing”.

* Line 4: I had considered “I”, but have decided for “My eyes”. I had considered “see/spy/espy”, but have decided for “descry”. For 長江 I had used “long, Long River”, but have decided for “grand Long River”. For 際 I had considered “fringe/end/margin”, but have decided for “verge”.

* The following is the abandoned translation of March 2007 revised up to August 2007 which is now further polished (in June 2010) so as to afford a comparison on a fairer basis :-

1 故人 Alas! My friend, for years my best,
   西辭 You bade farewell to your native west,
   黃鶴樓 At the Yellow Crane Tower we parted.
2 煙花 Willows misting, flowers in splendour,
   三月 ‘Tis the third month, the lunar calendar,
   下揚州 Downstream for Yangzhou, oh, you departed.
3 孤帆 That solitary sail for you they set,
   遠影 By now is but a distant silhouette,
   碧山(空)盡 Fading into the hills and heavens azure.
4 惟見 Now the only sight remaining clear,
   長江 A vista of a River long and drear,
   天際流 Rolling skywards to the horizon obscure.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
29th March 2007 (revised 4.4.2007; 10.4.2007; 26.4.2007; 10.5.2007; 14.5.2007; 27.5.2007; 17.7.2007; 18.7.2007; 23.7.2007; 30.7.2007; 14.8.07; polished 9.6.10; 11.6.10)


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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