03 January 2017

杜甫 Du Fu: 望嶽 Beholding the Mountain (Mount Dai or Taishan)

Happy New Year 2017!!!

You may recall that I first began this blog  in January 2008 after half a year's  search on how to best translate classical Chinese poems into English.  I have yet to come to a final conclusion  on the matter, but have decided  from the very beginning to work  on  the very short ones, particularly verses of 4 lines of equal line-length which I will term "quatrains" 四行詩  which  includes the new style (very stringently) regulated verse 近體詩, the 4-lined "jueju" 絕句, and equivalent less regulated  old style poem  古詩.  I had, at times,  ventured into  the easier-going long and short lined verses 長短句 i.e. "ci"  詞, and song lyrics.  Hence, from the very beginning, I had abandoned translating 8-lined poems including  the new style (extremely stringent because of the parallelism requirement for lines 3 and 4, and 5 and 6) regulated verse  近體詩 called "lushi" 律詩 with 8 lines, and less regulated 8-lined old style poems 古詩  like this Du Fu  poem on Mount Taishan.

The first drafts of this English rendition  were read by many of my friends 9 years ago.  I  thank them for their views, comment and encouraging words.  I am glad I am now able to post/publish it after having convinced myself that it is well nigh impossi ble to stick to the original rhyme scheme of a single rhyme.  Like what I have done for my "ci" (long short lines) translations (please see Li Yu 李煜 for example), I have settled  for less than a single  rhyme with, I hope, success.

Here  we go:-

Du Fu (712770):  Beholding the Mountain (Mount Dai or Taishan)

1  O majestic Mount Taishan, how shall I speak of you?
2  A landmark of green unfolding beyond all Qi and Lu.
3  Endowed, by the Creator, with heavenly beauty true;
4  Your shaded North severed from Southsides sunny milieu.
5  Cleansed in clusters of clouds, your bosom not in sight;
6  I set my eyes to follow the homing birds in flight.
7  One day for sure will I, ascend your utmost height,
8  To see the other summits dwarfed by your towering might.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)         譯者:  黄宏發
21 May 2007 (revised 11.6.07; 31.7.07; 31.10.16; 30.11.16; 21.12.16)
Translated from the original - 杜甫: 望嶽

1  岱宗夫如何        齊魯青未了
3  造化鍾神秀     陰陽割昏曉    
5  盪胸生曾雲         決眥入歸鳥
7  會當凌絕項    一覽衆山小


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a 5-character old style verse 五言古詩 (or 五古) which just happens to be in 8 lines.  Although, technically, it is not a new style 近體 5-character regulated verse 五言律詩 (or 五律) which must be in 8 lines and which is subject to more stringent rules, I will take it as if they were the same and refer to all 8-line verses with the same number of characters simply as octets (8-line verses八行詩) in my English renditions.  While the original is in 5-character (= 5-syllable) lines, this English rendition is in hexameter (6 beats or feet)  I have failed to emulate the rhyme scheme of the original which is XAXA XAXA and have adopted AAAA BBBB as my rhyme scheme.

*Title and line 1:   (mountain) refers to 五嶽 the 5 sacred mountains in the East, South, West, North, and Middle of China, respectively named 泰山 Taishan, 衡山 Hengshan, 華山 Huashan, 恒山 Hengshan, and 嵩山 Songshan.   Dai is another name for Taishan; and of these 5 mountains, Taishan ranks the highest, hence, 岱宗 means Dai the greatest, which I have translated as majestic Mount Taishan.  This makes the line readily comprehensible.   is an exclamation which is rendered as O.

*Line 2:  齊魯 Qi and Lu are the old names of respectively the northern and southern parts of the present-day Shantung 山東 Province.  未了 “not ending in is rendered as unfolding beyond after considering extending, stretching, spreading, covering, straddling and following my making clear Dai is a mountain in line 1, I have here in line 2 added landmark rather than landscape to make sure that 青 “green refers not just to green but to the green mountain.  I had considered but rejected the verdant landmark formulation as landmark of green unfolding beyond best translates 青未了.

*Line 3:  造物 is translated literally as the Creator, and rendered as Endowed.  It is suggested that Endowed, by the creator should be read with by also stressed to make 3 beats in the first half of the line.  I had considered but rejected rendering it as Endowed by the Lord Creator which would wrongly make it look too Christian.  For the second half, 神秀 is rendered as heavenly beauty true rather than divine beauty true for the same reasons.  The word true is added to make the you rhyme.

*Line 4:   and here refer to 山陰 and 山陽 the North (hence shaded) and South (hence sunny) sides respectively of the mountain range.   and which should mean dusk and dawn respectively are understood as metaphors for shaded and sunny and are rendered as such.   is translated literally as severed.

*Line 5:   is the same word as 層 “layers and /層雲 is rendered as clusters of clouds.   is rendered as cleansed.  I had considered bathed but have decided for cleansed for the alliteration of the k sound.   can be rendered as chest or breast, but I do not take 蕩胸 to mean the poets chest being bathed, as he is simply beholding the mountain and not up in the mountain.   is, therefore, rendered as bosom to mean the mountains midriff covered by or bathed/cleansed in clusters of clouds.  I have added the logical picture of not in sight to make an -ight rhyme for the second stanza.  I have dropped translating which is implied in the word in in in clusters of clouds.

*Line 6:  决眥 is rendered as I set my eyes after considering strain, focus, aim,  turn.   (enter) is rendered as to follow after considering capture, take in, observe, and 歸鳥 rendered as the homing birds, with in flight (which is implied in returning) added for the -ight rhyme.

*Line 7:  I had originally penned Endeavour and strive shall I for 會當 which, taken together, means ought to but, separately, means ought to and means surely will/can.  I have, therefore, decided for One day for sure will I".  凌   is rendered as ascend after considering clamber", "scale and reach.  I had considered dazzling for to parallel towering in line 8, but have decided for the literal utmost.   is rendered as height for the rhyme.

*Line 8:  一覽衆山 is rendered as To see the other summits, and rendered as dwarfed with by your towering might added for the rhyme and to bring the poem to a forceful end.   


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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