27 January 2018

Li Yu: 2 Verses to the Tune of Xian Jian Huan 李煜: 相見歡 2首

I started this blog 10 years ago in January 2008, posting here my translation of classical Chinese poems, one poem a month. I now think it is time that I should begin to polish my renditions with a view to ultimate publication in book form.  To begin the process, I began (last November then December) to post here my polished renditions of the poems included in the internet report "10 Most Popular Tang Dynasty Poems in Hong Kong". 

Today, I am giving you my polished renditions of 2 poems by Li Yu, the last Emperor of the South Tang dynasty, both poems written to the tune of Xian Jian Huan  相見歡 (Happy Together), also known as Wu Ye Ti 烏夜啼 (Crows Caw at Night).  These are poems or verses written to a tune the music score of which might have vanished but the pattern/tune of long and short lines remain and is adhered to.  In Chinese, they are known as 詞 "ci" which could best be translated as "lyrics", however, "patterned long-short lined verses" may be prefered for being more descriptive.

The theme of these two verses is melancholy, its cause: loss of his empire and separation from his love.  It is a sad melancholy, but without a single word of bitterness (with resignation?) yet still so sad, so very sad.  I give you this melancholic world of the last emperor of the demised South Tang dynasty, held captive by the emperor of the new Song dynasty.  (Please visit the 2 links for notes written in the original posts.) 

A:  Li Yu (937-978) "Xiang Jian Huan (Happy Together)/Flower groves have shed ..."

Flower groves have shed their spring red halo;
Oh, far too soon to go!
Weathering not the morning sleets and
   the winds by evening blow.

Tears of rouge you're dripping,
Together our wine we're sipping;
Ever again in the morrow?
Ah, life is beset, as ever, with sorrow
   as eastwards waters must flow.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  
譯者: 黃宏發
14 February 2011 (revised 25.2.11; 10.3.11: 30.4.11; 22.1.2018)
Translated from the original - 
李煜相見歡 (林花謝了春红)



B:  Li Yu (937-978) "Xiang Jian Huan (Happy Together)/Alone, in silence ...)

Alone, in silence, up the west tower I go:

The moon is like a sickle; 
That desolate phoenix tree, this clear, cool autumn, 
    locked deep in the courtyard below.

O threads I can’t cut through, 
In a tangle I can’t undo!
Such is my parting sorrow---
A taste that tastes so odd, so strange that my heart   
    ne’er ever before did know.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  
譯者: 黃宏發
3rd March 2011 (revised 7.3.11; 8.3.11; 4.9.12; 19.11.17)
Translated from the original - 
李煜相見歡  (無言獨上西樓)



04 January 2018

李叔同 (弘一大師) Li Shutong (Grand Master Hong Yi) : 送別 Farewell

POSTSCRIPT 2 (25.1.2108):  Two days ago, I attended a singing class/group coordinated by my friend Ms. Anita Lee.  The instructor was a young Hong Kong vocalist/conductor Mr. Francis Mok, and the group was preparing to sing both the Chinese version and my English version of "Farewell".  On Francis' and my singing of my English rendition, I found that for bars 7 and 15, which are identical, I should have syncopated "Re" rather than "Mi".  In other words, "The sun sets over hills ..." in bar 7 should be sung as "So So Re, Re Mi Fa ..." rather than "So So Re, Mi Mi Fa ...", and "Parted, tonight, lorn ..." in bar 15 should be sung as "So Re, Re Mi Fa ..." rather than "So Re, Mi Mi Fa ..."  To Anita Lee and Francis Mok, I am most grateful.

I have also revised "reach the skies" in line 2 to read "touch ...", and "touch willows" in line 3 to read "kiss ..."  All these revisions are effected in the post. 

POSTSCRIPT 1 (8.1.2018):  I have inserted the following links to versions of the song (American, Japanese, Chinese and Korean) to get you interested:-

(1) American song "Dreaming of Home and Mother"
(2) Japanese song 旅愁 "Traveller's Sorrows"
(3) Chinese song 送別 "Farewell"
(4) Korean song "Yo Soo"

ORIGINAL POST (4.1.2018):  The song 送別 "Song Bie" or "Farewell", in itself a great long-short-lined poem, was written in the early years of Republican China (1915) by 李叔同 Li Shutong as lyrics to the "melody" of the 1851 American song by John P. Ordway "Dreaming of Home and Mother" as modified by 犬童球溪 Inudou Kyuukei in his 1904 Japanese song 旅愁 "Ryosho" or "Traveller's Sorrows".  (More on the modifications in my notes on the "Origins" and the "Music".)

Although largely forgotten in America, the melody had become so popular in Japan, China and Korea that I had learned to sing 送別 as a child and had always wished to translate this Chinese poem into "sing-able" English .  This I have now done.  Please enjoy it. 

Li Shutong (Grand Master Hong Yi) (1880-1942): Farewell

1   The pavilion’s side,  
1a  Where the old road lies,
2   Sweet grass, so blue, they touch the skies.
3   Eve winds kiss willows, the pipe’s waning trills, 
4   The sun sets over hills and hills.

5   The verge of the skies,
5a  Lands’ end or beyond,
6   Dear friends half scattered, withered, gone.
7   A ladle of rough wine, what’s left of joy, we drain;
8   Parted, tonight, lorn dreams in vain.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
29 November 2017 (revised 27.12.17; 25.1.2018)
Translated from the original - 李叔同(弘一大師): 送別

1   長亭外
1a  古道邊
2   芳草碧連天
3   晚風拂柳笛聲殘
4   夕陽山外山

5   天之涯
5a  地之角
6   知交半零落
7   一瓢濁酒盡餘歡
8   今宵別夢寒


*Origins:  This poem by Li Shutong 李叔同 (1880-1942) was written as lyrics to the melody of the 1851 American song “Dreaming of Home and Mother” (published 1868), music and lyrics both written by John P. Ordway (1824-1880).  The melody, now still highly popular in East Asia (Japan, China and Korea) but largely forgotten in America, first gained popularity in Japan when in 1904 the Japanese musician 犬童球溪 Inudou Kyuukei (1879-1943) wrote and published his lyrics 旅愁 "Ryosho" or “Traveller’s Sorrows” set to this American melody which he slightly but, in my view, significantly modified.  (More on this in my note on the “Music” below.)  It is likely that Li Shutong who was studying in Japan during 1905-1910, heard the song by chance and was so moved by the modified melody of this song that in 1915 he wrote 送別 “Farewell” as the Chinese lyrics.  Since then, additional stanzas have emerged which, in my view, were not the work of Li.  The earliest published version of Li’s 送別 “Farewell” I can find is in a collection of 50 famous songs in Chinese 中文名歌五十曲 (上海開明書店) published in 1927 which was edited  by Li’s student, the famed painter Feng Zikai 豐子愷 (1898-1975) (together with Qiu Menghen 裘夢痕) which features substantively only 2 stanzas with the first stanza repeated as a third stanza.  Feng personally copied the lyrics of this and all other songs in the collection and provided some of his paintings for illustration.  Following Feng’s version, I have in line 5a adopted (not ) 之角, and in line 7, 一瓢 (not 觚   or ) 濁酒 as being Li’s original words.

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The form of the poem is that of the long-short-line verse or “ci”, though not set to any classical Chinese tune.  The four 3-character lines (1, 1a, 5 and 5a) are rendered in dimeter (2 beats), the two 7-character lines (3 and 7) in pentameter (5 beats), and the four 5-character lines (2, 4, 6 and 8) in tetrameter (4 beats).  The rhyme scheme is XAABB, XCCDD as in the original: “lies(1a)-skies(2)”, “trills(3)-hills(4)” and “drain(7)-vain(8), being full rhymes, and “beyond(5a)-gone(6)”, being an assonantal half rhyme.

*Lines 1 and 1a:  I have taken the 2 lines to mean: Outside the pavilion, along the old road” and have rendered them as “The pavilion’s side, Where the old road lies”.  (long) is implied in the rather larger structure called “pavilion” and is not translated.

*Line 2:  芳草 is translated literally as “Sweet grass”.  (emerald) is rendered as “so blue”, (after considering “so green”) to produce a better connection to the blue skies.  I had originally rendered  (join, connect) as "meet", then “reach”, and have now decided for "touch".

*Line 3:  晚風 and are translated literally as “Eve winds” and “willows”.  I had originally rendered  (caress, sweep) as "kiss", then “touch”, then "stroke", and have now decided to revert to "kiss".  (last, remaining, closing) is rendered as “waning”, (sound) as “trills”, and 聲殘 as “the pipe’s waning trills” after considering “the flute’s …”       

*Line 4:  山外山 (hills beyond hills) is rendered as “over hills and hills” after considering “beyond hills and hills”.

*Lines 5 and 5a:  I have taken lines 5 and 5a to mean: Far, far away, within the verge of the skies and the corners of the lands.  I have, therefore, rendered天之涯 (margin, limit) in line 5 as “The verge of the skies” and 地之角 (land’s corners) in line 5a as “Lands’ end”; and to this, I have added “or beyond” (not in the original) to create the “beyond(5a)-gone(6)” assonantal half rhyme and to introduce and reinforce the idea of dead friends implied in line 6. 

*Line 6:  知交 (intimate friends) is rendered as “My dear friends”, and (half) and 零落 (withered, decayed, scattered) are rendered as “half scattered, withered, gone”.  I had originally penned “Friends of yore” or “Dear old friends”, but have found them one foot/beat too long for the line which should be in tetrameter (4 beats).

*Line 7:  一瓢 is translated literally as “A ladle”, 濁酒 (unstrained, unfiltered wine), as “rough wine”, and 盡餘歡 (exhaust remaining joy) as “what’s left of joy we drain”.

*Line 8:  今宵 is translated literally as “tonight”.  The word In 別夢寒   should be taken to mean “parting”, and not “don’t” 不要, (e.g. Don’t dream cold dreams), nor “other” 別的, 其他 (e.g. Other dreams are cold).  This word should go with (dream) to form 別夢, to mean “dreams after parting”.  To make better sense of this line and its relationship with line 9 (farewell drinks at the pavilion), I have lifted the idea of parting rendered as “Parted” to begin the line, followed by “tonight”, then followed by “dreams” which are “cold”.  Although it can be translated as such, i.e. “cold dreams”, it should however be taken to refer to a feeling of coldness because of loneliness after the parting.  I have, therefore, rendered this idea of cold, lonely dreams as “lorn dreams” after considering “sad”, “lonely” and forlorn”.  To complete the line, I need to add a verb or a qualifier.  After considering perfect rhyme words such as “remain”, “pertain”, “obtain”, “in vain”, “in train”, “shall reign” and less than full rhyme words such as “await”, “pervade”, “hold sway”, “unchained”, “unreined”, I have decided for “in vain” for its ability to heighten the feeling of coldness or loneliness, this being the sense of the original.  The whole line now reads: “Parted, tonight, lorn dreams in vain.”

*Music:  In my note on the Origins above, I said when Inudou Kyuukei wrote the lyrics of 旅愁 “Ryosho” or “Traveller’s Sorrows” in 1904, he slightly but significantly modified the melody of John P. Ordway’s 1851 song of “Dreaming of Home and Mother” (published 1868).  I cannot confirm this with certainty as I have not seen Inudou’s music score published in or near 1904.  But I have heard ”Traveller’s Sorrows” sung in Japanese on the YouTube, and the modifications are evidently noticeable.  The same modifications appear in Li Shutong’s 1915 送別 “Song Bie” or “Farewell”.  In addition to having heard it sung in Chinese on the YouTube, I have also had sight of its music score in the 1927 Feng Zikai collection mentioned in my note on the Origins above.  The same probably also obtains in the Korean version entitled “Yo Soo”.  (I do not know Korean and am more than happy to be informed of its Korean history.)  I am no musician, but in my intuitive view, these slight but significant modifications have in effect turned an average western tune into a beautiful oriental melody -- which explains its lasting popularity in East Asia.

These significant modifications consist simply in deleting the penultimate note in bars 3+4, 7+8, 11+12, and 15+16, or lines 2, 4, 6 and 8 below (deleted notes in brackets, symbols “^” and “\” to stand for an octave higher and lower):-
Line 2:  So Do Re Mi Re Do (Mi) Re
Line 4:  So So So Re Mi Fa Ti\ (Re) Do
Line 6:  La Ti Do^ La La So Mi Do (Mi) Re
Line 8:  So So So Re Mi Fa Ti\ (Re) Do
Briefly, “Do Mi Re” became “Do Re”, and “Ti\ Re Do” became “Ti\ Do”.  You may wish to visit the 2 links below:-

(1) Ordway's original melody:
There appears to be one further modification in Li Shutong’s 送別 as evidenced in a large number of music scores and YouTube recordings.  Bar 13 (or first half of line 7) which should be “So Mi Do Do^ Ti” in the Ordway melody, is rendered identical to bar 5 (or first half of line 3) and shown, played and sung as “So Mi So Do^ Ti”.  I do not believe this was made either by Inudou or Li.  While I have never heard it (bar 13 of 旅愁) "wrongly" sung in Japanese as “So Mi So Do^ Ti” and have sometimes heard it "properly" sung in Chinese as “So Mi Do Do^ Ti”, the more or less conclusive evidence that Li did not (hence, Inudou did not) make this modification lie in Li’s music score in Feng Zikai’s collection published as early as 1927 (unfortunately not earlier) which does not contain this further modification.  I venture to suggest it may be a purposeful modification by singers and musicians, or may just be a careless mistake or misplay by singers and musicians.  Again, this awaits confirmation.  As I (again intuitively) find the original bar 13 superior, I have decided to stick to Ordway’s original “... Do Do^” in the music score for the "Song" below.  

*Song:  The song “Farewell” by Li Shutong with its lyrics in both Chinese and English (the English being my translation of Li's lyrics) and its musical score in “Numbered Musical Notation” or 簡譜 “Jianpu” or "Simplified Notation" is given below.  In it, I have put down (1) the numbered musical notes (with “^” and ”\“ added for a higher or lower octave), (2) the key signature, (3) the time signature, (4) bar lines, (5) musical rests, but not (6) the length of notes and others e.g. (7) slurs, if any, as I do not have the software to do it on my computer.

Music : John P. Ordway (originally his song “Dreaming of Home and Mother) 
Lyrics : Li Shutong (Grand Master Hong Yi) 李叔同   (弘一大師)
Lyrics translated by 譯詞: Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 黃宏發

1=Eb 4/4

The pavilion’s side, Where the old road lies,
5      5  3 5         1^ -- |  6        6     6     1^    5 -- |
Sweet grass, so blue, they touch the skies.
5           1        2   3         3      2        1 |  2 -- 0 0 |
Eve winds kiss willows, the pipe’s waning trills,
5       3         5      1^  7   |   6    6           1^ 1^    5 -- |
The sun sets over hills and hills.
5      5      2    2 3     4      7\ | 1 -- 0 0 |

The verge of the skies, Lands’ end or beyond,
6       6       1^ 1^  1^ -- |  7           7     6   7   1^ -- |
Dear friends half scattered, withered, gone.
6  7      1^        6       6  5            3   1     |  2 -- 0 0 |
A ladle of rough wine, what’s left of joy, we drain:
5   3   1 1    1^       7     |    6         6    6  1^   1^  5 -- |
Parted, tonight, lorn dreams in vain.
5      2     2 3          4     4           7\ | 1 -- 0 0 |

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 黃宏發


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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