02 May 2017

王梵志 Wang Fanzhi: 無題 Untitled [*我有一方便] [*I have, of prescription, a ready piece]

As there appears to be a lot of interest in the poems of Wang Fanzhi on this blog, I am posting here one more quatrain by this lay Buddhist.  Here we go:-

Wang Fanzhi (592?-670?): Untitled [*I have, of prescription, a ready piece]

1    I have, of prescription, a ready piece,
2    It’s worth, a hundred rolls of fleece----
3    In fights, lie low as ever one should;
4    Till death, see no county-authorities.
Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa )    譯者::黃宏發
27 December 2016 (revised 4.1.2017; 5.1.17; 10.1.17)
Translated from the original

王梵志: 無題 [*我有一方便]

1    我有一方便
2    價值百疋練
3    相打長伏弱
4    至死不入縣

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English rendition of the 5-character quatrain is in tetrameter (4 beats or feet.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original. 
*Line 1:  一方便 is rendered as “Of prescription … a ready piece” (a ready piece of prescription) after considering “remedy”.
*Line 2:  百疋 is rendered as “a hundred rolls” after considering “bolts” and “lengths”.  (which is a plain white  “silk” or “cloth” fabric) is loosely rendered as “fleece” (which is woolen) for the rhyme.  This I consider acceptable as the point here is the “worth” which is clearly made in “a hundred rolls” which is a lot for the poor, whatever the material.
*Line 3:  相打 is rendered as “In fights” ( “each other” is not translated as it takes at least 2 to fight) after considering “quarrels” and “conflicts”.  伏弱 is rendered as “lie low” after considering “stay weak” and “stay low”.  (long or always) is rendered as “as ever one should” after considering “always”.

*Line 4:  I had considered rendering 至死 as “In life (till death = during life)” but have decided to stick to the literal “Till death”.  (county) refers to the county government, its physical office and its officials, or “the authorities”, and not literally the county.  Hence, (not)(enter)(county) does not mean “not to enter the county” but means “have nothing to do with the county authorities”, i.e. “not to deal with nor to be dealt with by the county authorities”.  I had originally considered rendering as “county police”, but found it inadequate.  I then considered “county office” and “county authorities” and found both adequate, but have chosen “county authorities” which is superior in sense despite its extra, supernumerary beat in the word “authorities”.  For (not)(enter), I had considered “deal not with”, “see not”, “meet not”, “go not to”, “stay away from”, “steer clear of” and have decided for “see no” over “meet no”.  The line, therefore, now reads: “Till death, see no county-authorities” which completes the “piece(1), fleece(2), and -ties(4)” rhyme.  I suggest reading “-ties” unstressed (to keep to a 4-beat line) and have, therefore, hyphenated “county-authorities” to make it easier to be read as 2 dactyls, thus: DUM-da-da-DUM-da-da. 

Classical Chinese Poems in English


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