31 May 2018

Wang Fanzhi: 2 Untitled Colloquial Quatrains 王梵志: 無題白話絕句 2首

Today, I am posting 2 quatrains by Wang Fanzhi 王梵志 of the late Sui 隋 dynasty and early Tang 唐 dynasty, a precursor of the Tang dynasty Buddhist monk poet Hanshan 寒山.  These 4-lined poems strictly are not quatrains as they do not follow the tonal measures of "regulated verse" 近體詩, nor are they "old style verse" 古詩 as their language is rather colloquial.  They do have an XAXA rhyme scheme.  So, call them "rhymes" 打油詩, if you please.  But they do convey a serious message.  Here we go:-

A:  Wang Fanzhi (592? - 670?): Untitled/Earthy steamed buns, out in the country

Earthy steamed buns, out in the country,
Their fillings alive, and dwell in town;
We each in turn will have to take one,
Its taste may let you down. Don’t frown!

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者黃宏發
25th April 2015 (revised 29.4.15; 30.4.15; 1.5.15)
Translated from the original - 
王梵志無題 /城外土饅頭


B:  Wang Fanzhi (592? – 670?): Untitled/No man lives to a hundred years

No man lives to a hundred years;
Write songs to sing for a thousand, what for?
The dead, on seeing an iron wrought threshold, 
Clap hands and laugh: “We did it before!”

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者黃宏發
27th April 2015 (revised 29.4.15; 30.4.15; 1.5.15; 26.5.15)
Translated from the original - 王梵志無題/世無百年人


10 May 2018

李白 Li Bai: 自遣 To Myself

Today, I am posting yet another little poem by the great Chinese poet immortal Li Bai of the 8th century.  I do hope you will find it interesting.

Li Bai (701-762): To Myself

1   Wining, not finding evening approaching;
2   Fallen petals, on my gown abound.
3   Sobering, I stroll the creek in moonlight;
4   Birds retiring, ah, few men around.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者: 黃宏發
26th January 2017 (revised 28.1.17)
Translated from the original – 李白: 自遣

1   對酒不覺暝
2   落花盈我衣
3   醉起步溪月
4   鳥還人亦稀


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a 5-character quatrain.  This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 beats or feet) while the original is in 4-syllable lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.

*Line 1:  對酒 (facing, wine) is rendered as “Wining”, 不覺 (not aware) as “not finding”, and literally as “dusk” but with “approaching” added.

*Line 2:  落花 (fall, flower) is rendered as “Fallen petals” which I consider more appropriate than “Fallen flowers” (despite its “f” alliteration) as what have fallen are not the flowers but their petals.  I had originally penned “on my robe abound” to translate 盈我衣 (fill to the full, my, clothes), but have now decided for “on my gown abound” for the gown-abound assonance.

*Line 3:  醉起步 (drunk, rise, walk) should not be understood as (drunk) followed by 起步 (rise and walk or start to walk), but should be read as 醉起 (rise or recover from being drunk = sobering) followed by (walk) and is, therefore, rendered as “Sobering, I stroll”.  溪月 (creek, moon) is rendered as “the creek in moonlight”.

*Line 4:  鳥還 (bird, return) is rendered as “Birds retiring” after considering “Birds returning”, “Birds roosting”, “Birds roosted” and “Birds nested”.  人亦稀 (men, also, few) is taken to mean “(birds returning to retire) and men also retiring and becoming fewer and fewer” and is rendered as “ah, few men around”, with “ah” used to roughly translate (also) and “around” added to make clear “men” refers to the very few men still staying at the scene (and not to men generally), and to make the “abound(2) and around(4)” rhyme possible.


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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