29 March 2012

朱慶餘 Zhu Qingyu: 近試上張水部 Submitted to Waterworks Minister Zhang as the Imperial Examinations Approach

This beautiful little poem is by the Late Tang poet Zhu Qingyu: particularly beautiful is the last line "Are my brows too bold, too light? Are they painted just right?"  Now, just sit back and enjoy the poem.   Skip the next paragraph if you do not wish to be bothered with the rather technical stuff. 

My rendition of this quatrain by was first posted on my blog in the Hong Kong Economic Journal web on 29th October 2010.  In the ensuing discussion, it was pointed out by 香江逸士 that the last word of line 1 燭 is of 仄聲 (deflected tone), then by 筆非得 (aka Flyable Pen) that 燭 therefore does not rhyme with the last words of lines 2 and 4 being 姑 and 無 which are of 平聲 (level tone) as in Chinese versification rhymes are of the same 聲 (tone) in addition to rhyming syllables.  I have checked with the same authority 喻守真's  唐詩三百首詳析 which confirms 平聲虞韻  for lines 2 and 4 only.  The original rhyme scheme is, therefore, XAXA and not AAXA as I originally claimed.  But as the 3 words concerned are pronounced "燭 zhu", "姑 gu" and "無 wu" and as AAXA is a more demanding rhyme scheme, I have decided to stick to my original rendition.  This is written to acknowledge the contributions of 香江逸士 and 筆非得.  Please see link:  http://www.hkej.com/template/blog/php/blog_details.php?)blog_posts_id=58037

Zhu Qingyu (early 800's): Submitted to Waterworks Minister Zhang (Ji) as the Imperial Examinations Approach

1        Last night in their nuptial chamber, red candles burned bright;
2        To the front hall to greet their parents, come morning’s first light.
3        Having done with her make-up, she whispers to her groom,
4        “Are my brows too bold, too light? Are they painted just right?”

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
5th December 2009 (revised 7.12.09; 11.1.10; 24.10.10)
Translated from the original - 朱慶餘近試上張()水部

1        洞房昨夜停紅燭
2        待曉堂前拜舅姑
3        妝罷低聲問夫婿
4        畫眉深淺入時無

*  This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original.
*  Line 1:  I had considered “bridal” but have decided for “nuptial”.  I have added “bright”, which is not in the original, and have omitted translating which means “brought into and put there and (of course) lit”, hence, “burned (or were) bright”.
*  Line 2:  Here, (literally, uncle) and (literally, aunt) mean father-in-law and mother-in-law.  I have translated this as “their parents”, parents to the groom and parents-in-law to the bride, the word “their” here follows from “their nuptial chamber” in line 1.  I had considered “at the” but have decided for “come”.
*  Line 3:  I have omitted translating (ask) which is implied in the question marks in line 4.
*  Line 4:  I had considered “too dark, too light”, “too bold, too slight” and “too bold, not quite”, but have     now decided for “too bold, too light”.  I had considered “aright” and “all right”, but have decided for “just right”.


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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