07 March 2016

杜甫 Du Fu: 絕句 4首 其2 (1- 兩個黄鸝...) Quatrain 2 of 4 (1- A twosome of golden orioles...)

Further to my January 2016 post on Wang Wei's "Pastoral Bliss, VI of Seven", I am posting for your pleasure another perfect example of parallelism in classical Chinese poetry.  This is a 7-character quatrain by Du Fu whose skills in parallel matching is manifest in the poem.  I hope you will enjoy my rendition of it as much as the original.

Du Fu (712-770): Quatrain, II of Four (A twosome of golden orioles...)

1    (A twosome of golden orioles, in the verdant willows sing;)
      A twosome of golden orioles, from the verdant willows sing;
      (revised 22.3.16)
2    One flock of silvery egrets, up high to the blue sky soar.
3    West Range’s ancient snow caps, captured within my window;
4    East bound, the long-haul sail-boat, berthed outside my door.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
4th January 2016 (revised 22.1.16)
Translated from the original – 杜甫: 絕句 4 其2 (兩個黃鸝...)

1    兩個黄鸝鳴翠柳
2    一行白鷺上青天
3    窗含西嶺千秋雪
4    門泊東吳萬里船  


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a rare quatrain which features perfect parallelism, i.e. words and phrases in the odd number line are matched by words and phrases in the even number line which follows. The original is in 7-character lines with a rhyme scheme of XAXA.  In this hexameter (6 feet or beats) English rendition with the same rhyme scheme, I have attempted, with success, I hope, to reproduce Du Fu’s perfectly matching parallels.

*Line 1: To translate 兩個 I had considered “A pair of”, “A couple of” and just "Two" or "Twosome", but have decided for “A twosome of”.  For “yellow” in 黃鸝 “orioles”, I have used “golden”.  [Added 22.3.16:  I had originally penned "in the verdant willows sing" but have now decided for "from the verdant ..."]

*Line 2:  For “one” in , I had considered “A …” but have decided for “One …” which better matches “A twosome” in line 1.  I have rendered “line, row, file” as “flock” as I am not sure if egrets at all fly in lines.  For “white” in 白鷺 “egrets”, I have used “silvery” to better match “golden” in line 1.

*Line 3: For 千秋 “thousand autumns (years), I had originally penned “ageless/timeless”, but have now decided for “ancient”.  “snow” is rendered as “snow caps” to make clear this is snow on the mountain tops of  the "West Range" 西嶺窗含 is rendered as “captured within my window” (rather than the beautiful formulation of “framed within my window”) so as to capture the consecutive repetition of the “cap” sound.

*Line 4:  萬里 “ten thousand li’s (miles)” “ship(s)” is rendered as “the long-haul sail-boat”.  I had originally penned "the long-haul sail-boats" but have now rejected it for being too crowded and noisy.   “East” “a place called Wu” is rendered as “East bound” with “Wu” omitted.   “door” “berth” is rendered as “berthed outside my door” (rather than “moored outside my door”) so as to capture the alliteration of the “b” sound.

Classical Chinese Poems in English


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