28 February 2012

辛棄疾 Xin Qizi: 醜奴兒/ 採桑子 書博山道中壁 Chou Nu Er/ Cai Sang Zi (The Ugly Page/ Picking Mulberries) -- Written on a Wall on the Way to Boshan

This famous poem by Song dynasty poet Xin Qiji is about autumn, literally the autumn season and metaphorically, the autumn of one's life, of life approaching the end.  The theme is melancholy, yet mild and subtle, and the last line says it all.  For this, I have attempted many different renditions including "What a beautifully chilly autumn! I say, after all."  I have now revised it to "O how fair though chilly this autumn! I say, after all."  I hope this rightly captures the sentiments of the poet.  

This is the first long-short-line Chinese verse (or "ci" 詞) I ever attempted a versified and rhymed translation.  Like my rendition of Yue Fei's "Man Jiang Hong" (May 2010), I have used 2 different rhymes for the 2 stanzas.  Although in my subsequent renditions of Li Yu's (February, March and May 2011) and Wen Tingyun's (July 2011) long-short-line "ci" I have attempted a uniform rhyme for the uniformly rhymed lines which is not always possible, I do hope you will find my rhyme scheme enjoyable.

Xin Qizi (1140-1207): Chou Nu Er/ Cai Sang Zi (The Ugly Page/ Picking Mulberries) -- Written on a Wall on the Way to Boshan

1    When young I never did know the taste of woe or sorrow,
2    Up to the top floor, I loved to go;
3    Up to the top floor, I loved to go---
4    For to compose new verses, I feigned my sorrow and woe.

5    Now sorrow and woe I've tasted, and the bitterness withal,
6    To speak, I wish, and yet I stall;
7    To speak, I wish, and yet I stall---
8    O how fair though chilly this autumn! I say, after all.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者: 黃宏發
23 May 2007 (revised 18.7.07; 5.12.07; further revised with notes added 30.11.10; last line revised 28.2.12)
Translated from the original - 辛棄疾醜奴兒/ 採桑子 -- 書博山道中壁

1    少年不識愁滋味
2    愛上層樓
3    愛上層樓 
4    為赋新詞強說愁

5    而今識盡愁滋味 
6    欲說還休
7    欲說還休 
8    卻道天凉好個秋


*    The original is a long-short lined verse (“ci”詞) of 2 stanzas of the same “7, 4, 4, 7-character” pattern, with the shorter lines repeated: line 2 in 3 and line 6 in 7.  The rhyme scheme is ABBB, ABBB.  This English rendition uses hexameter (6 feet) for the long lines and tetrameter (4 feet) for the short ones.  My rhyme scheme is AAAA, BBBB.  I am grateful to Lin Yutang林語堂 whose English rendition of the same poem ending his book “My Country and My People”<吾國與吾民> has inspired me not to insist on the “ci” rhyme scheme of one rhyme across stanzas, and in this case, the rhyme樓樓愁 for lines 2, 3 and 4 in stanza 1 followed by the same rhyme休休秋 for lines 6, 7 and 8 in stanza 2.  The rendition by Lin Yutang (with an ABBA, CDDC rhyme scheme) is reproduced below:-
         1  In my young days,
                 I had tasted only gladness
         2  But loved to mount the top floor,
         3  But loved to mount the top floor,
         4  To write a song pretending sadness.
         5  And now I have tasted
                 Sorrow’s flavours, bitter and sour,
         6  And can’t find a word,
         7  And can’t find a word.
         8  But merely say, “What a golden autumn hour!”

*    Line 1:  I have now revised “I knew not” to “I never did know” to make the hexameter (6 feet) complete.  I have also revised “sorrow and woe” (in this line only) to “woe or sorrow”.

     Lines 2 and 3:  I have now revised “To the floors upstairs” to “Up to the top floor”.
*    Lines 6 and 7:  I had added (18.7.07) “of it” after “To speak”, but have now decided to take “of it” away.

*    Lines 3 and 7:  I have revised (28.2.12) the end-of-line commas to dashes.

*    Line 8:  I had changed (18.7.07) “I merely say, What a cold and beautiful season, this fall!” to What a chilly and beautiful autumn!  I say, after all.”, then decided (5.12.07) to describe “autumn” as “beautifully chilly” instead of “chilly and beautiful”.  I have now decided (28.2.12) to revise the line as “O how fair and chilly this autumn!  I say, after all.”


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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