31 October 2011

柳中庸 Liu Zhongyong: 征人怨 A Soldier’s Lament

This is the last day of October 2011 and I have only just realized that I have yet to do my October post. Please accept my apologies.  Here, I share with you an anti-war poem by 柳宗元 (of 江雪 "River Snow" fame) Liu Zongyuan's cousin(nephew):- 

Liu Zhongyong :  A Soldier’s Lament

1        Year on year at the frontier, by the Gold-Brook or Jade-Pass I stand;
2        Day in, day out on horseback, riding-crop, broad-sword at hand.
3        ‘Tis late in spring, the green graves, still shrouded in white, in snow;
4        The endless Yellow River, rounding this Black-Hill borderland.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黃宏發
20th May 2010 (revised 22.5.10; 24.5.10; 26.5.10; 27.5.10; 28.5.10; 31.5.10: 2.8.10; 28.6.11)
Translated from the original - 柳中庸:  征人怨

1        歲歲金河復玉關
2        朝朝馬策與刀環
3        三春白雪歸青塚
4        萬里黃河繞黑山

*      This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.
*      Line 1:  I have added “at the frontier” (I had originally used “a soldier”) and “I stand” which are not in the original to make plain the meaning of the line.
*      Line 2:  I have added “on horseback” and “at hand” (not in the original) for the same reason as line 1.  I had considered “in hand” and “on hand”, but have decided for “at hand”.  I have translated 馬策 (the handle/stock of a horse-whip, a synecdoche for the horse-whip) as “riding-crop” (meaning the horse-whip but can also mean the handle/stock of the whip).  刀環  (the ring at the top of the handle/hilt of a sword) is a synecdoche for the “sword”, and I have rendered it as “broad-sword”(which I prefer over “sabre” for reason of sound, both being weapons more appropriate for battle on horseback than just sword). 
*      Line 3:  (three) (spring)  is translated as “late in spring” as I have taken not to mean “three” but the third and the last of the three spring months.  I have rendered 青塚 as “green graves” generally to refer to all who had died in battle here (and hint at the fate of those who are still alive) and have consciously avoided the legend of the grave of 王昭君 (a courtesan sent during the Han Dynasty to be married to 呼韓邪, a king 單于 of the Huns匈奴), the only grave that remained green in snow.  For 白雪 I had considered “white snow” and “the white of snow”, but have decided for “in white, in snow”.  For I had considered “rest”, frozen”, “blanched”, “wrapped”, “clad”, “palled”, “dead”, “buried”, “lie” and “lie dead/buried”, but have decided for “shrouded”
*      Line 4:  (ten thousand) (miles/li), a hyperbole, is translated by another hyperbole as “endless”.  For   I had considered “meandering in”, “meandering down/through”, “ringing round”, “turning at”, “entangling”, “encompassing”, “enwrapping” and “encircling”, but have decided for “rounding”.  I have added “the borderland” as I have interpreted “Black-Hill” 黑山 not to mean a particular hill/mountain but to refer to 河套 “Hetao” (literally the bend or meander of a river including the plains and plateaus on both sides of the river, in this case, the two perpendicular bends in the upper reaches of the Yellow River in Northwestern China), a region which was then the frontier.  

Classical Chinese Poems in English


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