05 November 2010

韋應物 Wei Yingwu: 秋夜寄邱員外 Written on an Autumn Night to Squire Qiu

It is now deep in autumn. Most ancient Chinese poets seem to miss their family and friends most in autumn. Wei Yingwu said in the 8th century: "On this crisp autumn night when pine-cones fall, I miss you and am thinking of you. You must still be up, thinking of me too." Though in the last the 20th and this the 21st century, poetry has been replaced by an "I miss you" card or an email "miss U" message, the sentiments remain the same. Why not borrow Wei's poetry?

Wei Yingwu (739-792): Written on an Autumn Night to Squire Qiu

1 My friend, O how I miss you, this autumn night!
2 I stroll, and a rhyme I roll -- of the clime now chilly,
3 Of the drop, dropping of pine-cones in the empty mountain,
4 And of you, my dear recluse, still up, willy-nilly.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黄宏發
23rd June 2009 (25.6.09; 26.6.09; 27.10.10; 5 11 10)
Translated from the original - 韋應物: 秋夜寄邱員外

1 懷君屬秋夜
2 散步詠涼天
3 空山松子落
4 幽人應未眠

* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the 5-character lines of the original. The rhyme scheme is ABCB as in the original.
* Title: The addressee is a friend of the poet’s named Qiu Dan 邱丹 or Qiu Ershier 邱二十二 (probably means the 22nd son). Qiu was in retirement when Wei wrote the poem, and 員外 could either meant his former rank in officialdom 員外郎 or simply a country squire, and I have adopted the latter for the title.
* Lines 2, 3 and 4: I have repeated the word “of” in all 3 lines so as to treat everything in the 3 lines to be the content of the “rhyme (verse or poem)” rolling from the poet’s mouth while strolling. An alternative treatment, probably more faithful, is as follows:-
1 My friend, oh how I miss you, this autumn night!
2 I stroll, and a rhyme I roll of the air turned crispy.**
3 In the fall of pine-seeds, pine-cones in the empty hills,
4 I hope, my dear recluse, you’re still up, not sleepy.**
**The “crispy” (line 2) “not sleepy” (line 4) rhyme may not be perfect but is, I hope, acceptable as a para-rhyme or off rhyme.
* Line 2: I had considered “A rhyme I roll as I stroll”, then used “As I stroll, a rhyme I roll …” but have now decided for “I stroll, and a rhyme I roll …”.
* Line 3: I had originally written “Of the drop and plop of pine-cones …”, but have found the word “plop” (being a verb for dropping into water) less than satisfactory and have now decided for “Of the drop, dropping of pine-cones …”. I have translated 松子 not as “pine-seeds” but as a synecdoche for “pine-cones”. By repeating “drop” and by turning the second “drop” into the participle “dropping”, I hope to create the autumn sound of pine-cones falling.
* Line 4: I have used “still up” to translate 未眠. I am still considering whether or not “willy-nilly”, which I need for the rhyme, is a mistaken interpretation of or adds too much to 應 in the original.

Classical Chinese Poems in English


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