30 September 2018

He Zhizhang: Two 7-character Quatrains 賀知章: 七言絕句 兩首

Today, I am re-posting my rendition of two 7-character quatrains by He Zhizhang.  I have rendered poem A on the 'willow" in hexameter (6 feet or beats) and poem B on "returning home" in pentameter (5 feet or beats).  For my notes on their translation, please visit the relevant links.  Here we go:-

A:   He Zhizhang (659-744): An Ode to the Willow

1  Up to your crown, O willow, dressed in the green of jades,
2  Myriads of twigs so verdant, droop like your silken braids.
3  Who knows who the tailor is, who’s cut your leaves so fine? It’s
4  The vernal winds past February, sharp as the scissors’ blades.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黄宏發

Translated from the original - 賀知章: 詠柳

1  碧玉妝成一樹高
2  萬條垂下綠絲縧
3  不知細葉誰裁出
4  二月春風似剪刀

B:  He Zhizhang (659-744): Coming Home, Fortuitous Lines 

I left home young, now old, I return care free;
My tongue unchanged, my hair though thinner be. 
Unknown am I to the boys and girls I meet;
Smiling they ask, “Sir, from whence come thee?

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

Translated from the original - 

賀知章回鄉偶書 其一 


19 September 2018

王維 Wang Wei: 鳥鳴澗 Birdsong Brook

Today, I am posting a beautiful little quatrain by Wang Wei entitled "Birdsong Brook"which I like very much.  I hope you too will like Wang's original poem and Vikram Seth's rendition (reproduced in my notes) and my rendition of here posted.  Here we go:-. 

Wang Wei (701-761): Birdsong Brook

1       At ease and I see osmanthus flowers falling---
2       A night so still, a mountain so hollow in spring.
3       Up comes the moon awaking the mountain birds,  
4       By the brook in spring, then and again they sing.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  譯者黃宏發
30th April 2009 (revised 6.5.09; 7.5.09; 6.6.11)

Translated from the original - 

王維: 鳥鳴澗

1       人閒桂花落
2       夜靜春山空
3       月出驚山鳥
4       時鳴春澗中


*  This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA, more demanding than the original XAXA, both being rhyme schemes of the Chinese quatrain.  I am indebted to Vikram Seth from whose superb rendition of the same poem, I have borrowed not only the title of “Birdsong Brook” and his rhyme of “Spring” and “sing”, but also his phrase “Up comes the moon”.  His rendition, on p.4 of his “Three Chinese Poets: Wang Wei, Li Bai and Du Fu”, HarperCollins (1993) or Faber (1992) which I like very much (except for his stressing the first syllable in every single line which, in my view, makes the poem sound harsh), is as follows:-
1  Idly I watch cassia flowers fall.
2  Still is the night, empty the hill in Spring.
3   Up comes the moon, startling the mountain birds.
4  Once in a while in the Spring brook they sing.

*  Line 1:  I had first considered using the “lie idly/leisurely” approach to translate 人閒 but have eventually embraced the “at ease and see” approach, hence, “At ease and I see”.  The correct name for 桂花 is “osmanthus” while “cassia” is the name for 桂皮.  I have used “falling” rather than “fall” both for the rhyme and for being more descriptive of the scene.

*  Line 2:  For I have chosen “hollow” over “empty”.

*  Line 3:  I am indebted to Vikram Seth for the phrase “Up comes the moon” (see note above).  (startling) is taken to mean 驚醒, hence, “awaking”.


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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