10 December 2010

白居易 Bai Juyi: 夜雪 Night in Snow

Winter is approaching. Although it never snows in Hong Kong, those of us who had experienced snow may find this little poem of interest. The famed Tang dynasty poet Bai Juyi is also known by the name Po Chu-I.

Bai Juyi (772-846): Night in Snow

1  Surprised to find, so cold, my quilt and pillow;
2  (Then light I see from the papered casement window.)
    Then light I see through my papered casement window.  
    (revised 26.2.15)
3  (Deep in the night, so heavy it snows, I know, when)
    Deep in the night, so heavy's the snow, I know, when  
    (revised 26.2.15)
4  (Bamboos go crack ~ a sound, now ‘n then, I follow.)
    Bamboos go clack---a sound, then again, I follow.
    (revised 26.2.15)

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黃宏發
22nd July 2009 (revised 23.7.09; 24.7.09; 3.8.09; 4.8.09; 5.8.09; 10.12.10)
Translated from the original - 白居易: 夜雪

1  已訝衾枕冷
2  復見窗户明
3  夜深知雪重
4  時聞折竹聲

* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AAXA as I take the original to be. The “pillow, window, follow” rhyme is but a falling para-rhyme
* Line 2: The word 復 here means 後 “then”, not 再 “again”. The word 户 “door” is omitted in the translation as it refers to the Chinese “casement door” which is also a window. The word “papered” is added to make clear it is not a glass casement window/door which did not yet exist.
* Line 3: I had originally penned “so heavy’s the snow” but have now decided for “so heavy it snows”.
* Line 4: For the sound of bamboos breaking, I had considered “snap” and “clack”, but have decided for “crack”. For the word 時, I had considered “e’er ‘n anon (ever and anon)”, “now ‘n again (now and again)”and “then ‘n again (then and again)”, but have decided for “now ‘n then (now and then)”

Classical Chinese Poems in English


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