01 April 2017

羅隱 Luo Yin: 自遣 To Myself/ My Way

Today, I am posting a poem by the late Tang dynasty poet Luo Yin.  Read whatever pleases you into the poem, but do also read into it my interpretation of it (in this my English rendition) which is a far cry from being the song of a drunk or an unsuccessful imperial office seeker.

Please enjoy it!  Here we go:-

Luo Yin (833-910): To Myself/ My Way)

1   When I gain, aloud I sing, when lose, I just let go----
2   Woeful and regretful: the way to unending sorrow. 
3   (Today, this wine of mine, drink and be drunk today;)
     Today while the wine is mine, drink and be drunk today; (revised 18.4.17)
4   Tomorrow. if worries come, worry not till tomorrow.                                                                     
Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
18th January 2017 (revised 24.1.17; 31.3.17; 18.4.17)
Translated from the original - 羅隱: 自遣

1   得即高歌失即休
2   多愁多恨亦悠悠
3   今朝有酒今朝醉
4   明日愁來明日愁


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a 7-character quatrain.  This English rendition of the quatrain is in heptameter (6 beats or feet) while the original is in 7-syllable lines.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.

*Title:  自遣 means “to release/console myself” and is probably best translated simply as “To Myself” which I have adopted.  I had originally entitled it “My Way” because the poem gives a very clear message that one should “follow the way of nature” 順其自然 which is the way of the poet who is a Daoist 道家.  I have, therefore, added “My Way” as an alternative title.

*Line 1:  For 得失, after considering “high” and “low”, I have decided for the literal “gain” and “lose”.  高歌 is translated also literally as “aloud I sing”. I have taken the word (stop, quit, etc.) to be the key to understanding the line and the poem.  It certainly does not mean “sullen” (found in a Wiki translation), nor does it mean “stop/quit in the sense of giving up”.  In my view, the only correct interpretation is 罷休 (let the matter drop) and it is, therefore, rendered as “just let go”.

*Line 2:  The word can mean either “worry” or “woe/sorrow”.  In this line, I have taken it to mean “woe/sorrow” (in contrast to “worry” in line 4) and it is rendered as “Woe…”.  The word can mean either “hatred” or “regret”.  Since the poem has nothing to do with hatred, it is rendered as “regret…”.  The word (many) is rendered as “full” or rather, the suffix “-ful”, hence, 多愁多恨 rendered as “Woeful and regretful”.  I suggest reading “and” stressed to make the first half of the line 3 beats.  Of the various meanings of 悠悠 I have chosen “long lasting, never ending” and have rendered it as “unending”.  The word (also) is taken to mean 也正是 (also, precisely, is); and the whole line can be paraphrased as “To be full of woe and regret is precisely what makes sorrow unending” and rendered as “Woeful and regretful: the way to unending sorrow” with the word “way” added to bring out the message that “woeful and regretful” is not the poet’s “way”, his “way” being what transpires in lines 1, 3 and 4.

*Line 3:    (morning) refers to (day), hence, 今朝 is translated as “Today”.  有酒 (have, wine) means “there is wine” or “I have wine” and is rendered as “while the wine is mine” (to mean "when there is wine at my disposal") after considering “this wine of mine", "this wine is mine", "while there is wine", "while there’s still wine”, “while I have wine”, and "while I still have wine". (This sentence revised 18.4.17.)  The word (drunk) in Chinese includes 飲酒 (to drink, alcoholic beverage) and is best rendered as “drink and be drunk”.

*Line 4:  I have taken the here to refer to “worry” in contrast to “woe/sorrow” in line 2.  明日愁來 is, therefore, rendered as “Tomorrow, if worries come” after considering “Tomorrow, come worries” and “Tomorrow, when worries come”.  For the 明日愁 ending the line, I had originally penned “are worries for tomorrow”, but have now decided for “worry not till tomorrow”.


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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