06 March 2013

張九齡 Zhang Jiuling: 自君之出矣 Since from Home You Departed

For those of you who visit my blog regularly, you must have been surprised to find my last 2 monthly posts were more didactic than poetic.  They were Chapters 17 and 49 of Lao Zi's Dao De Jing which have to do with the question of "trust" that I had to talk about late last year at an academic conference.  I would love to carry on with Lao Zi and do have a few more chapters readily translated but will stop, if not at least for the time being, as visitor statistics are just holding good, if not falling.

I will, therefore, in this post return to poetry (my poetry?) by giving you my rendition of a truly beautiful little quatrain by Zhang Jiuling 張九齢, contemporary of but slightly preceding Wang Wei 王維, Li Bai 李白 and Du Fu 杜甫.  This poem, like many Chinese poems, refers to the moon but (unlike Wang Wei's moon in his 竹里館 which is bright and solacing, Li bai's moon in his 夜思(靜夜思) whose brightness brings him home and Du Fu's moon in his 月夜 which shines on his wife and children away in refuge from the capital) Zhang Jiuling's moon is a full moon waning, a moon losing its lustre nightly.

For those of you who like my renditions of Lao Zi, I hope you will like this too.

Zhang Jiuling (678-740):  Since from Home You Departed

1        E'er since from home my lord departed,
2        I’ve left untouched my weaving loom.
3        Like the full moon, O I long for you,  
4        Nightly it wanes while I waste in gloom.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者; 黃宏發
18th June 2012 (revised 19.6.12; 9.8.12)
Translated from the original - 張九齡:  自君之出矣

1        自君之出矣
2        不復理殘機
3        思君如滿月
4        夜夜減清輝

*    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.  I am grateful to Xu Yuanzhong (also known as XYZ) (p. 45 of his “Bilingual Edition 300 Tang Poems”, Beijing: Higher Education Press, 2000) for the “loom, gloom” rhyme.
*    Lines 1 and 3:  I have taken the poem to be addressed to the husband/lover as seen in the use (in both lines 1 and 3) of the word which is a polite way of saying “you” or addressing a person, and here that person is the “husband/lover”.  To translate , I have used “my lord” in line 1 and “you” in line 3   I had considered but rejected “E'er since from home, my lord, you departed” as I find “E'er since from home my lord departed” more than adequate in the context.  I had considered "O since" but have decided for "E'er since".  If the word "lord" is considered archaic, it can be replaced by "love".
*    Line 2:  (“remaining”, not “broken/derelict”) (“machine”, specifically “loom”) here means “unfinished/incomplete cloth/fabric remaining on the loom” and is simply translated as “weaving loom”.
*    Lines 3 and 4:  I had considered adding “’Tis” (line 3) and “O” (line 4) to these 2 lines to give them daDUM iambic openings but have decided for the DUMda trochees.  .
*    Line 4:  夜夜減清輝 which literally means “night by night, reducing its clear lustre” is translated without the words “clear lustre” as the meaning is covered by the word “wanes” at least insofar as the “full moon” is concerned.  I had originally penned the line as “O waning night by night in gloom” or “O waning and wasting nightly in gloom” (given the need of “gloom” to complete the rhyme) but have decided otherwise because the word “gloom” does not seem to go well with the “full moon”.  This simile of “the waning full moon”, which metaphorically also alludes to the lady, is now made explicit by the addition of “while I waste in gloom” to “Nightly it wanes”.  The word “waste” means “to lose strength, health or vitality, to lose flesh, to pine, to decay”. (Shorter Oxford Dictionary)  The loss of the of the alliteration of 夜夜 in my rendering it as "Nightly", instead of "Night by night", is somewhat compensated by the alliteration of "wane ...while...waste".    

Classical Chinese Poems in English


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