22 December 2017

10 Most Popular Tang Dynasty Poems in Hong Kong, Top 5 香港最受歡迎十首唐詩之前五名

On 12 November 2017, I posted here "10 Most Popular Tang Dynasty Poems in Hong Kong, Second 5" (link), being my rendition of poems #6 to #10 on that list of 10.  To complete the list, I am giving you today my rendition of the top 5 poems.  Again, for my notes, please go to the links attached to the respective poems. 

FIFTH <#5> 第五名:樂游原    作者:李商隱

      Li Shangyin (813-858): Ascending the Pleasurable Plateau

      It’s late in the day, my heart’s not well at ease;

      To the ancient plateau, up, in a carriage I go.
      Sublime is the time while the sun is yet to set;
      Too soon, alas, is dusky darkness to follow.


FOURTH <#4> 第四名:登鸛雀樓    作者:王之渙

      Wang Zhihuan (688-742): Ascending the Stork Tower

      Over the mountains, the white sun daily sets,   
      And into the ocean, the Yellow River flows.
      Wishing to eye---the view of a thousand miles,   
      A floor, a floor more: up the stairs one goes.

這首詩將普通的登高望遠寫出了豪邁的氣勢,全是不僅形式優美,其中蘊含的進取精神更是讓後人動容。沈德唐詩別》中選錄這首詩時曾指出:四語皆對,讀來不嫌其排,骨高故也。” 有人將這首詩評為五絕之首。

THIRD <#3> 第三名:靜夜思    作者:李白

       Li Bai (701-762): Night Thoughts

       Before my bed, the moon shines bright;

       Be it frost aground? I suppose it might.
       I lift my head, the moon to behold, then
       Lower it, musing: I'm homesick tonight.


SECOND <#2> 第二名:清明    作者: 杜牧

       Du Mu (803-852): Qingming, Early April

‘Tis Qingming, early April, a season of mizzles and gloom
       Away from home, a wayfarer, faring into gloom and doom.
       O where can be found a tavern, my good lad, if I may ask? 
       There! points the herd-boy to a village where apricots bloom. 


FIRST <#1> 第一名:遊子吟    作者:孟郊
       Meng Jiao (751-814): Song of the Travelling Son - Written at Liyang on Mother's Arrival 

       Sewing-thread in hand, the loving mother;
       Clothes for the son to wear, her travelling son.
       On and on she sews, his leaving now nears;
       Stitch on stitch, she fears -- a delayed reunion.
       How shall my heart of a mere grass seedling, ever
       Repay the embracing rays of her ever spring sun!



06 December 2017

王梵志 Wang Fanzhi: 無題五言古詩(八行詩)/我昔未生時 Untitled 5-Character Octet/At a time before I came into being

Today I am posting another poem by Wang Fanzhi, most probably a precursor to the oft translated famed Buddhist poet monk 寒山 Hanshan or Cold Mountain.  Most of Wang's poem are 4-line quatrains..  This is a rare 8-line octet.  It is not in regulated verse, hence it can be classified as an ancient air 古風.  Here it is:-

Wang Fanzhi (592?-670?): Untitled 5-Character Octet/At a time before I came into being

1   At a time before I came into being,
2   I was in the dark and knew of nothing.
3   The heavenly lord just gave me life --
4   A life of what, for what, I’m asking!  

5   With nothing to wear, I feel so cold,
6   Nothing to eat, I'm hungry, starving.
7   Heavenly lord, repay what you owe me,
8   Revert and restore: my unborn being!

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者: 黃宏發
23rd February 2017
Translated from the original- 王梵志: 無題五言古詩(八行詩)/我昔未生時

1   我昔未生時
2   冥冥無所知
3   天公強生我
4   生我復何為

5   無衣使我寒
6   無食使我饑
7   還你天公我
8   還我未生時


*Form, Meter and Rhyme:  The original is a 5-character old style verse 五言古詩 which happens to be in 8 lines, and is not a 5-character regulated verse 五言律詩 (a new style verse近體詩) also of 8 lines by definition.  As I have said in the note to my rendition of Du Fu’s “Beholding the Mountain” (posted on 3 January 2107), I will in my renditions refer to both as “octets”.  This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 beats or feet) while the original is in 5-syllable lines.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA XAXA as in the original, although the “-ing”  half rhyme is less than satisfactory.

*Line 1:  I had originally penned “Some time ago, before my birth”, but have now decided for “At a time before I came into being” to fit the rhyme scheme.

*Line 2:  冥冥 is rendered as “in the dark”.

*Line 3:  天公 is rendered as “heavenly lord”.  (strong) in 強生 is understood as is used in 強加 (impose), 強令 (arbitrary order) and 強蠻 (arbitrary and arrogant, unreasoning) and is here rendered simply as “just”, while (born, birth) is rendered as “life” (thus, “just gave me life” for強生我) rather than “birth” to provide a link to line 4 which begins with 生我 “A life”.

*Line 4:  何為 is rendered as “for what”.  (again, also) is understood as equivalent to the more colloquial (again, also) which, in this context, is interpreted as a word “used for emphasis in negative sentences or rhetorical questions” (p. 1886, “New Age Chinese-English Dictionary”, Beijing: Commercial Press, 2004) and is, therefore, rendered as “I’m asking” to bring out the emphasis in this rhetorical question.  I have also added “of what” (not in the original) before “for what” to add to the emphasis.

*Line 7:  還你天公我 should be properly understood as 你天公還我 (you, heavenly lord, repay me) or better天公你還我 (heavenly lord, you repay me) and is rendered as “Heavenly lord, repay what you owe me” with “what you owe” added to fully convey the sense of 還債 (repay a debt = you owe me, you repay me).

*Line 8:  To translate the word repeated from line 7, I have used 2 words “revert” and “restore”, neither of which repeats the word “repay” used in line 7, but all 3 words begin with “re“.  This, I hope, adds to the urgency of the poet’s call.


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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