05 November 2012

杜牧 Du Mu: 寄楊州韓綽判官 Sent to Magistrate Han Chuo in Yangzhou

This is a re-posting of my October post (6.10.12) of this Du Mu poem which I inadvertently deleted while trying to enlarge the font yesterday (4.11.12).  Here, I have put down a fictitious date of 31.10.2012 in the hope that it will appear on the blog as my October post replacing the deleted one.  Below is the introduction to my original post:-
Here is yet another beautiful little poem by the late Tang dynasty poet Du Mu. As I have said in my notes, Han Chuo and Du Mu were great friends and fellow officials when Du was in post in Yangzhou, and 玉人 here refers to Han Chuo and means "handsome fellow", not "beautiful lady". What I have not mentioned in my notes was the story that Du and Han used to frequent pleasure houses together. This known, does line 4 refer to the noble pleasure of teaching flotists (flutists) or other pleasures? I do hope my translation has done Du Mu justice. Please enjoy this ambiguity.
In my original post, my rendition of the poem ran:-
1    In haze the green hills half hidden, to afar the waters flow; 
2    Though late in autumn in Southland, its grass is yet to yellow.
3    A night of bright moonlight o'er Bridges Twenty-Four, just
4    Where are you flaunting your flute, my handsome good fellow.
Subsequently, I made some revisions in the "Comments" section.  These and other comments are reproduced below:-
My own 24.10.12 - Although I am still awaiting a comment on my "flaunting your flute" (line 4) from my pub friend Bill Late, I must now ask him to also kindly comment on my decision to revise it to read "paying your pipers" (meaning: calling your tunes) which accords more with my interpretation of 教 (please see my note on line 4).  I also take this opportunity to revise line 1 to read "Green hills in haze half hidden, waters to afar do flow," which formulation better accords with the original Chinese. I have effected these revisions on the post. 

My own 25.10.12 - I have decided to revise the first half of my line 2 to read "This Southland though late in autumn" which sounds better. In so foing, I have inverted the order of 秋盡(autumn end) and 江南(river south). I have effected the revision in my post.
Frank 31.10.12 hi, andrew,  thank you for your rendition and i like the first 3 lines of your rendition best.  allow me to be v frank: i must say i find your translating (玉人何處) '教吹簫' as (Where are you) 'paying your pipers' most odd, if not totally inappropriate. from my high school dictionary, 'pay the piper (and call the tune)' means 'bear the cost of an undertaking (and have control of what is done)'. to me, this appears to be 風馬牛 to '教吹簫'。  i sincerely hope you'll perhaps kindly re-consider using your former version for line 4.

Frank 31.10.12 - and, having given you a broadside, i'm now sticking out my neck with my attempted translation below (for you to have a chance at getting even with me!) ... hehe!
    Sent to Magistrate Han Chuo in Yangzhou -- by Du Mu   

    With green hills blurred by mists, the stream flows afar forever;  
    Autumn grows old but the grass is still green south of the River.  
    At the Bridges-Twenty-Four City beneath the bright Moon,  
    My handsome friend --somewhere-- is teaching someone the flute's tune.

Frank 31.10.12 - o in order not repeat the word "green" on both lines 1 and 2 of my rendition, i'd like to revise line 1 thereof to read:  With blue hills blurred by mists, the stream flows afar forever

My own revisions are now consolidated in the rendition below.  The notes have also been revised to reflect the revisions:-

Du Mu (803-852):  Sent to Magistrate Han Chuo in Yangzhou

1        Green hills in haze half hidden, waters to afar do flow;
2        This Southland though late in autumn, its grass is yet to yellow,
3        A night of bright moonlight o’er Bridges Twenty-Four, just
4        Where are you paying your pipers, my handsome good fellow?

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
20th August 2012 (revised 6.10.12; 24.10.12; 25.10.12)
Translated from the original - 杜牧:  寄楊州韓綽判官

1        青山隱隱水迢迢
2        秋盡江南草未()
3        二十四橋明月夜
4        玉人何處教吹簫

*    Title:  判官 in Tang dynasty China was a high ranking staff officer under the Provincial Governor (辭源: 地方長官的僚属,佐理政事) and is, here, translated as “Magistrate” not in the sense of a judge but of a high ranking official.  (Shorter Oxford: Magistrate - a civil officer charged with the administration of the laws, a member of the executive government.  Middle English)
*    Line 1:  I had considered but abandoned “lie hidden” as I take 隐隐 to mean 若隱若現, hence, “half hidden” which makes more sense than “lie/all hidden”.  I have added “in haze” (not in the original) to make a 6-foot line and to make this sense possible.  To translate the repeated sounds of 隱隱 and 迢迢 I have used the alliteration of “h” (hills, haze, half, hidden) and “f” (afar, flow) respectively.
*    Line 2:  I have adopted the version (草未凋 grass not withered yet) which makes more sense than the version (草木凋 grass and trees all withered) and have added “though” to accompany “yet” to complete the sense.  .  I have taken 秋盡 to mean “approaching” and not quite “the end of autumn”, hence “late in autumn”. I had considered but dropped the alternative of “’Tis the end of autumn in Southland …”  江南 can be transliterated as “Jiangnan” but is, here, translated as “Southland” in the interest of those who do not know means “south”.
*    Line 3:  二十四 “Twenty-Four” is not taken to be the name of one single “Bridge” but as numerals referring to the “Twenty-Four Bridges” of Yangzhou city which name, by tradition, stands for Yangzhou.  I have capitalized “Bridges Twenty-Four” to make clear the line refers to the city of Yangzhou.
*    Line 4:  玉人 is not taken to mean “beautiful girls” but a “handsome man”.  Du Mu wrote this poem in jest to Han Chuo who was his fellow official when Du was in post in Yangzhou and was his good friend, hence, “good fellow” (Shorter Oxford: “boon companion”).  In 教吹簫 “teaching how to play the flute”, the idea of “teach” is deliberately omitted as can also mean 使  “to make, let” as. in 金昌绪 春怨 莫教枝上啼” Jin Changxu  A Spring Plaint “Not to (let it) trill on my garden boughs all day”.  This omission, in effect, preserves the ambiguity of the original which many believe is of a sexual nature.  I had originally rendered it as “flaunting your flute” meaning “showing off your flute skills”, but have now decided for “paying your pipers” meaning “calling your tunes”.  (He who pays the piper calls the tune.)


01 November 2012

李白 Li Bai: 怨情 Plaintful Sentiments

Following my July 2012 post of Li Bai's 玉階怨 "Sentiments on the Steps of Marble", I now present to you another beautiful little "plaint" or "complaint" by that great Tang poet Li Bai.

In my July post, I gave you Ezra Pound's rendition of 玉階怨 which he entitled "The Jewel Stairs' Grievance" for comparison with mine.  In this post of Li Bai's 怨情, I would like to give you the rendition of this poem by the great Chinese translator Prof. Xu Yuan-Zhong 許淵冲 (aka XYZ) of Peking University.  The following is found on p. 127 of a translated anthology "300 Tang Poems - A New Translation" (Commercial Press, 1987):-

Waiting in Vain    Li Bai    Tr. X.Y.Z.
1    A lady fair uprolls the screen,
2    With eyebrows knit she waits in vain.
3    Wet stains of tears can still be seen.
4    Who, heartless, has caused her the pain?

What a beautiful rendition!  XYZ is indeed a true master of the art of translation.  I do not intend to enter into a long discussion of whether his or mine or any other's is a better translation, but simply wish to bring out some of the words/phrases he and I have added or omitted, varied or explicated, so that one may begin to appreciate the very difficult choices the translator faces:- 

Line 1:  While XYZ prefers "lady fair" for 美人, I have omitted 美 "fair" as I take 美人 to simply mean a woman or lady.  XYZ has rendered 珠簾 as "screen" omitting 珠 "beads" (perhaps regarding it as inconsequential)  while I have used "beaded curtain" as I regard "beaded" to be of significance and do like the sound of "curtain" more than XYZ's "screen" or other alternatives, e.g. "drape" .
Line 2:  XYZ has altogether omitted 深坐 (my rendition "For long she sits") and has added "waits in vain" (which is also his translation of the title).  He must have taken 深坐 to mean "sitting for long, waiting" with "in vain" inferred from the next 2 lines.  I am grateful to XYZ for inspiring and inviting me to the idea of "waiting" which I have added in my own rendition.
Line 3:  但見 is hard to interpret.  XYZ has taken it to mean 仍可見 "can still be seen" while I take it to be 只見 "Seen ... are but".  While I have added "on her face" after "Seen" and have omitted translating   濕 "wet", XYZ's rendition has succeeded in not having to add "on her face" and keeping the word "wet".  This is probably due to our different interpretation of 但見.
Line 4:  This line is where XYZ and I differ the most.  XYZ's rendition of line 4 bears no resemblance to the original.  心 "her heart" is varied into "the heartless person" and 恨誰 "who ... she hates" is explicated as "Who ... has caused her the pain".  Yet, XYZ is able to retain all the ambiguities of the original.  What a great master!

With this tribute to XYZ, may I invite you to enjoy his rendition above and mine below:- 

Li Bai (701-762):  Plaintful Sentiments

1  The lady rolls up her beaded curtain;
2  For long she sits, brows knit, she waits.
3  Seen on her face are but traces of tears,
4  Know not who, in her heart, she hates.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者黃宏發
25th June 2012 (revised 26.6.12; 27.6.12; 30.10.12)
Translated from the original - 李白:  怨情

1  美人卷珠簾
2  深坐蹙()娥眉
3  但見淚痕濕
4  不知心恨誰


*    This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.

*    Line 1:  I had considered “Fair lady” but have decided for “The lady”.  I had first penned “bead strung” but have now decided for “beaded”.

*    Line 2:  In my view, the word should be taken to mean “for a long time” and not “deep inside the room”.  I have added “waits” (not in the original) primarily for the “waits-hates” rhyme, but also to paint a picture of “a lady rolling up the curtain, sitting for long, unhappy, obviously because she is waiting without success for the return of her husband/lover”.  娥眉 refer to “eyebrows” and both  and  mean “frowning” or “knitting (the eyebrows)”.  Of these 2 words, I prefer pronounced as (Pinyin “cu”, Cantonese “tsuk”) which sounds better than pronounced as (Pinyin “pin”, Cantonese “pan).

*    Line 3:  I have translated 但見 “can only see” as “Seen … are but traces of tears” with “on her face” added “.  This, though not in the original is.  I have not literally translated “wet” but have hoped that “tears” would suffice.

*    Line 4:  I have translated the whole line rather literally, with translated simply as “hates”, thereby, retaining all the ambiguities.  She might be “hating” the husband who left home seeking fame and/or fortune or, even, for another woman, but still wanting him to come home.  She might “hate” the emperor for sending her husband to war, or even God, the gods, fate, or the heavens that her husband should be away no matter for what.  She might even “hate” herself for having been unkind, unloving to her husband no matter how few a time.  I agree with 喻守真 who said, “This poem in on the word ‘hate’.  As for whom to hate and what to hate, it is for the interpreter (reader) to interpret (read) for himself.” 此詩寫個恨字,恨誰恨甚麽?在解人自解。  This is the magic of ambiguity.  My literal translation of as “hate/hates” is, therefore, imperative.


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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