02 September 2013

崔顥 Cui Hao: 長干曲 4首 其1 其2 Song of Chang'gan 1 and 2 of 4

Following my August post of a Chinese love poem of the 13th century, I am posting today 2 more Chinese love poems of the 8th century by the Tang dynasty poet Cui Hao, which I have recently translated.  Cui Hao had written a total of 4 poems of the same title.  These 2 are the more popular ones and are complete in telling the story of the beginnings of a courtship with the woman of Hengtang (part of Changgan) taking the initiative in Song I and the man, in Song II, responding gingerly (but not unfavourably) as he, though born in Changgan, now lives in Jiujiang some distance away.  I now give you my rendition of Cui Hao's originals:- 

I. Cui Hao (704?-754): Song of Chang'gan 1 of 4 (The Woman's Song) 

1  (Yourself and folks, sir, where do you live?)
   Your folks, yourself, sir, where do you live?  (revised 3.9.13)
2  Myself I live, sir, in embanked Hengtang.
3  I’m staying my boat to ask you this, we
4  May well belong to the same home town.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
24th June 2013 (revised 25.6.13; 26.6.13; 27.6.13; 28.6.13; 29.6.13; touched up 28.8.13)
Translated from the original - 崔顥長干曲(行) 4首 其1

1   君家何處住
2   妾住在橫塘
3   停船暫借問
4   或恐是同鄉

Notes on Song 1 (The Woman's Song):-

*    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. 
*    Title:  Changgan 長干 is the district along the Qinhuai River 秦淮河 (in present day Nanjing 南京, Jiangxu Province 江蘇省).   or  means “song”.  The title of the poem “Song of Changgan” refers to a verse (words or lyrics) written to the music or tune of the song.  The poet had written 4 poems of the same title, this being the first which is supposed to be the song of a woman.  I have, for clarity, added to the title “The Woman’s Song” in brackets.
*    Line 1:  I have rendered  not as “home” but as “folks”.  I have translated  simply and literally as “live”. The word “sir” translates  more or less perfectly.  Both the original  and the translation as “sir” are masculine and serve to hint at but not really revealing the feminine identity of the person speaking. 
*    Line 2:  The word  (together with the word  in line 1) in the Chinese original fully reveals the speaker’s feminine identity.  As I am unable to find an equivalent for  in English, I had considered “I’m a girl who lives, sir,” but found it inadequate as the female concerned could be a “spinster”, “widow” or any sort of “woman”.  I have, therefore, decided for “Myself I live, sir” hoping that the mere repetition of the word “sir” will work the magic of further strengthening the hint suggested in line 1, if not completing it.  As for 橫塘 “Hengtang”, it was the name of a place in Changgan (in present day Nanjing) along the Qinhuai River where embankments had been built and so named.  I had originally penned “in Hengtang renown” so as to complete the “renown-home town” rhyme.  I have now decided for “in embanked Hengtang” with the word “embanked” added to explain in the English rendition the meaning of 橫塘  despite the less than perfect rhyme of “Hengtang-home town”.
*    Line 3:  I had originally penned “I stay my boat just to ask you this” but have now revised it to “I’m staying my boat to ask you this,” with the word “we” moved up from line 4 to create an enjambment instead of end-lining it. .
*    Line 4:  I have translated 同鄉  as “the same home town”.  To make up the whole line, I had considered various combinations of “perhaps, maybe, may, may well” and “are from, have come from, belong to” and have decided for “(we) May well belong to the same home town” with the word “belong” suggesting a closer affinity.

II. Cui Hao (704?-754): Song of Chang'gan 2 of 4 (The Man's Song)

1  I live in Jiujiang, or Rivers Nine; 
2  To it and through it, a sailboat I ply.
3  From birth to youth we never met, yet
4  Natives of Changgan, both you and I.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者黃宏發
9th July 2013 (revised 10.7.13; 16.8.13; touched up 28.8.13)
Translated from the original - 崔顥長干曲() 4首 其2

1  家臨九江水
2  來去九江側
3  同是長干人
4  生小不相識

Notes on Song 2 (The Man's Song):-
*    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.
*    Title:  Please see my note on the Title in my rendition of Cui Hao’s “Song of Changgan I (The Woman’s Song), this being “II (The Man’s Song)”.
*    Line 1:  Jiujiang 九江 is in present day Jiangxi Province 江西省 on the south-west border of the Jiangxu Provinve 江蘇省 where Nanjing 南京 and Changgan長干 are located.  Literally, the line should be “My home is by the waters of (a place called) Jiujiang (nine rivers)” which effectively means “My home is in Jiujiang” or simply “I live in Jiujiang”.    I have, therefore, rendered it as “I live in Jiujiang, or Rivers Nine)” with “I live” instead of “My home is” to translate and with “or Rivers Nine” added to explain the name of Jiujiang which also helps to compensate for the omission of “the waters of” in my rendition.  I had considered adding “now” to “I live … in Jiujiang …” to make clear that the man no longer lives in Changgan, but have decided against it.
*    Line 2:  I have again taken Jiujiang 九江 to be a place and not, literally, nine rivers, and have refrained from repeating it but have translated it simply as “it”.  來去 is effectively translated by “ply” together with “To it and through it”.  I had considered “To it and from it” but have decided for “through it” hoping this will somehow cover the word “by the side of”.  I have added “a sailboat” which, though not present in the original, is implied in the context and is required to complete the 4-beat meter.
*    Lines 3 and 4:  I have reversed the order of these 2 lines primarily to complete the “ply-I” rhyme, but       also to strengthen my optimistic interpretation of lines 3 and 4. These 2 songs (the woman’s Song I and this, the man’s Song II) are clearly courting love songs.  To further strengthen this interpretation, I have added the open-ended word “yet” instead of the rather neutral if not pessimistic “though” to link up the 2 lines.  生小 is rendered as “from birth to youth” and 不相識, simply as “we never met” instead of the literal “never knew each other/one another” which will make it sound  impersonal and aloof..        


Ray Heaton said...

In the Woman's song, is there not a temporary nature of her "staying her boat" implied by 暫, which would have been met with, in your original translation, "just to ask..."? Although this may alter the line structure, could this be reintroduced by "I’m staying my boat awhile to ask you this"?

I'm unsure how you have translated 恐, which seems to have a rather fearful meaning, can you explain how you have used this character?

Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 said...

I thank Ray Heaton for the 2 points.

On the word 暫, I thought my using the present continuous tense "I'm staying" would suffice to cover the temporary nature. Apparently, not. However, Ray's "I'm staying my boat awhile to ask you this" would have given an extra beat (awhile) to the, otherwise, 4-beat structure of the poem. I will, therefore, re-consider my original "I stay my boat just to ask you this".

The word 恐 means 恐怕 which in this context means "I guess", "I think", "I estimate", etc. and should have no fearful meaning at all. There is a perfect equivalent in English in "I'm afraid ..." which I have rendered here in this poem as "(we) May well ...".

Thank you.

Ray Heaton said...

I find it very interesting that of all the other translations I have found, only yours attempts a rhyming and rhythmic rendition rather than "free form". I have read recently in the Handbook of Translation "...it is extremely difficult to translate a Classical Chinese poem into an English metrical poem with a particular verse rhythm amd metre....free verse seems to be the way out...". You achieve this magnificently. I especially appreciate in this pair of poems, the ending of each of the lines three with the enjambments "we" and "yet"; quite masterful. I have reconsidered your view that the temporary nature of "I'm staying" fulfils the 暫...and I now think yes it probably does!

Unknown said...

Here is my try:

Where do you live, my lady?
Myself live in Heng Tang.
I stop the boat to check this out,
I’m afraid we might belong to the same home town!

(translated by Alan Ma, Jan.5,2014)


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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