25 January 2011

陳沆 Chen Hang: 一字詩 Chen Hang: A Poem with the Word "A"

Happy New Year! Happy 2011! Sorry for the delay in posting this my January piece. Over last Christmas, I was given a task, so to speak, on my other blog (see link) by 2 fellow bloggers who offered their renditions of a "fun" poem by a Qing dynasty poet 陳沆 Chen Hang (1785-1826) which they entitled "The One Lyric" or "The One-word Lyric" as follows:-

tr. 筆非得 25 December 2010
1 One sail, one oar, one fishing boat.
2 One fisherman with one fishing hook,
3 Bending and lifting his head, laughing
4 With the moon and autumn in the river.

tr. frank yue (adapting 筆非得) 26 December 2010
1 One sail, one oar, one fishing boat.
2 One fisherman, one fishing hook,
3 Bending and lifting his head, laughing --
4 On the river, the full moon and autumn afloat.

Whatever the serious, philosophical (Taoist?) side of the poem may be, let us just tend to the fun side for the time being. How do you like the poem? How do you like the renditions? How would you do it? Have fun in the New Year! Here is how I have done it:-

Chen Hang (1785-1826): A Poem with the Word "A"

1  (An oar, a sail, a smallish fishing boat,)
    An oar and a sail, a little fishing boat, (26.1.11)
2  (A hook for angling, a fisherman, I note,)
    A fish hook for angling, a fisher folk, I note: (26.1.11)
3  A-dipping, a-lifting, a-laughing no matter what,
4  A river in moonlight, an autumn’s leaves afloat.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
26th December 2010 (revised 21.1.11) (further revised 26.1.11)
Translated from the original - 陳沆: 一字詩

1  一帆一槳一漁(扁)舟
2  一個漁翁一釣鈎
3  一俯一仰一場笑
4  一江(輪)明月一江秋

* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AAXA as is the original.
* Title and whole poem: Literally 一字詩 is “one word poem” but means a poem using repeatedly the word “one”. For my rendition, I have used “A” and “An” instead of “one”, hence, the “An’s” and “A’s” throughout the poem and the title “An ‘A’ Poem”
* Lines 1 and 2: I have changed the order of the items in these two lines into sequences of “from the small to the big” (e.g. “ 槳oar” then “帆sail” in line 1, and “釣鉤 hook for angling” then “渔翁fisherman” in line 2) and “from the particular to the whole” (e.g. “ 槳, 帆oar, sail” then “舟 boat” in line 1).
* Line 1: I have incorporated both the 漁 “fishing” and 扁 “small” versions of the poem into my translation, hence, “smallish fishing boat”. For 槳 I had considered the more logical word of “scull 櫓” which, when we only have one on a boat with a sail, can double as a steering rudder, but dropped the idea. The word 扁 should be pronounced “pian” (“pin” in Cantonese) and not “bian” (“bin” in Cantonese). 扁舟 in Chinese poetry means “a little boat” and not “a flat boat” (pronounced ‘bian”). It can but does not mean “a number of boats rafted together” (扁 being equivalent to 編) and is certainly not a “raft” which is 筏 in Chinese.
* Line 2: I have added “I note” (not present in the original) to make the rhyme, but which links up beautifully every part of the poem.
* Line 3: I have taken 俯仰 not to literally mean “bending the body forward” then “raising/lifting the body upward” but to figuratively mean “dipping the fishing rod” (“a-dipping”) then “lifting the fishing rod” (a-lifting). I had considered “a-flipping” which rhymes best with “a-dipping” but have decided the “dipping-lifting” assonance would suffice. For 一場笑 “a scene of laughter”, I refused to take it to be caused by a good catch. In fact, I was inclined towards the opposite, i.e. for having caught naught, considering the sentiments in line 4 (moon light, autumn). I then decided to use “a-laughing loud and long” but have now decided for “a-laughing, no matter what” which best retains the original ambiguity. I could have written the line as “A dipping, a lifting, a laughter no matter what”, thus keeping all 3 “A’s” in line 3 as an indefinite article in line with the “A’s” in all other lines., but have decided that turning them into an “action” preposition makes line 3 so much more lively and appealing.
* Line 4: I have not incorporated the 輪 version into my translation in which I have rendered 一江明月 as “a river in moon light” and 一江秋 (a river in/of autumn) as “an autumn’s leaves afloat”.

Classical Chinese Poems in English


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