08 August 2014

盧綸 Lu Lun: 塞下曲 6首 其1 Border Song, 1 of 6

I am saddened to have to inform you that the lady protagonist of my dear friend Chen Tien Chi's love poem (Ru Meng Ling or As If Dreaming 如夢令 in my July 2014 post), his wife Mrs. Pearl Kong Chen 江獻珠, passed away in peace on 21 July 2014.  I will always remember the dinners Pearl cooked for us or took us to, not just because she was an expert gourmet and expert chef, but more for the love and care she put into her cooking and her selections.  May the good Lord bless and keep her.  May she rest in eternal peace.

Mrs. Pearl Kong Chen's Memorial Service will be held on Sunday, 10 August 2014 at the Chung Chi College Chapel, The Chinese University of Hong Kong at 3 p.m.  A Celebration of Life Dinner will also be held that evening.

Today, I am posting No. I of the six Border Songs written by Tang dynasty poet Lu Lun.  The rendition has not been easy; every line poses at least one problem as will be seen in my explanatory notes.  I hope I have done a fair job, and do hope you will enjoy it.  Here we go:-
Lu Lun (748-800?):  Border Song, 1 of 6

1    (Bedecked with vulture feathers, of gold, his arrow;)
      Bedecked with vulture feathers, his golden arrow;  
      (revised 24.8.14)
2    Swallow-tailed, embroidered, his banners flow.
3    Alone he stands, proclaims his new command, to
4    His thousand warriors' battle cry----Onward go!

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者黃宏發
13th June 2013 (revised 14.6.13; 17.6.13; 19.6.13; 20.6.13; 8.8.2014)
Translated from the Chinese original - 盧綸塞下曲 6首 其1

1        鷲翎金僕姑
2        燕尾繡蝥弧
3        獨立揚新令
4        千營共一呼

*    This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.
*    Line 1:  僕姑 is the name of an arrow mentioned in the ancient Chinese classic 左傳 (莊十一年) and is rendered simply as “arrow.”  It is rendered in the singular primarily because I have interpreted the arrow in this context to be a 令箭 “arrow shaped (or arrow used as) token of authority over the army” akin to 兵符 “commander’s tally used for deploying and commanding armed forces.”  Based on this interpretation, I have used the noble word “gold” (instead of “metal”) to translate and have rendered it as “of gold” over “golden” or “gold-tipped.”  For the same reason, I have used the ornamental “bedecked” instead of the technically correct “fletched” (fletchings being feathers attached to arrows) to refer to the vulture feathers.
*    Line 2:  蝥弧 is the name of a flag mentioned in the ancient Chinese classic 左傳 (隱十一年) and is rendered as “banners” with the implied word “flow” added.  I had considered but dropped the alternative of “his colours/banners fly so.”
*    Line 3:  I had originally penned “By none he stands” but have now decided for “Alone he stands”.  Unlike most commentators and translators, I have interpreted the poem as describing the scene of a general assuming command.  揚新令 is, therefore, rendered as “to proclaim his new command” rather than “gives a new order" (Witter Bynner), “to issue a new edict" (Innes Herdan), “gives an order out" (Xu Yuan-Zhong), or “gives new commands" (Waters, Farman, Lunde).

*    Line 4:  Although most commentators and translators have variously taken 營 (thousand/tent) to mean “a thousand tents" (Witter Bynner), “a thousand companies" (Innes Herdan), “a thousand battalions" (Xu Yuan-Zhong), or “a thousand campfires" (Waters, Farman, Lunde), I am inclined to interpret it as “a battalion of a thousand men” which fits the scene of a general standing alone on a platform addressing his men (irrespective of whether he is assuming new command or just issuing new orders) who respond in unison with a battle cry, and have rendered it as “thousand warriors.”  For the word , I have used “battle cry” together with a slogan to be coined with a word to end-rhyme with “arrow" (1) and "flow" (2).  I had first considered the cry “Westward ho” and its variants “Northward ho,” “Forward ho,” “Onward ho” (which I like), “Rally ho” (unfortunately, the battle cry of a group of 3 silly Hanna-Barbara cartoon figures The Impossibles and also the greeting used by the dwarfs in the Final Fantasy video game series), “Battle ho,” or “To battle ho” (which I also like).  I then considered another rhyme word “foe” in: “Defeat the foe,” “Beat the foe” and “Crush the foe," and then yet another rhyme word “go” in: “Go go go,” “To battle go,” “To battle we go” (which I like) and “Onward we go," and have finally decided for “Onward go!”. The words 共 (together) and 一 (one) have not been literally translated as they are adequately covered or implied in my formulating the line as “to/ His thousand warriors’ battle cry----Onward go!”.           

Classical Chinese Poems in English


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