04 January 2019

李清照 Li Qingzhao: 如夢令 Ru Meng Ling -- [*昨夜雨疏 ...] [*Last night the rain ...]

Last month (December 2018), I posted here my rendition of Li Qingzhao's most famous "tune lyric" or "ci" 詞 to the tune of Sheng Sheng Man 聲聲慢 ('Note after Note' Slow Song).  I am quite disappointed that after one whole month, there had only been 98 visits, probably due to the length of both the poem and my notes.  I am grateful to Ray Heaton for his learned comment on my rendition which I will respond to shortly.

Today, I am posting my rendition of another "tune lyric" by this great poetess Li Qingzhao of the (North then South) Song 宋 dynasty.  This lyric is to the tune of Ru Meng Ling 如夢令 (Song of As If Dreaming) which is short with 33 words in 2 stanzas of 23 and 10 words.  I hope this short poem will serve as an appetizer whetting your appetite for the works of Li Qingzhao and proceed to the "Slow Song of Note after Note" posted last month. 

Li Qingzhao (1084-1151): Ru Meng Ling (Song of As If Dreaming) -- Late Spring [*Last night the rain was sparse …]

1   (Last night the rains were sparse, the winds, gusty;)
     Last night the rain was sparse, the wind, gusty; (revised 1.3.19)
2   A deep sleep clears not the wine still remnant in me.
3   I ask of the one who rolls up the blinds, 
4   Who just says: “Flowery as ever --- that begonia tree.”
5   “Know, not? Oh, silly!
6   Know, not? Dear me!
7   (Its reds must have thinned out, its greens, now fleshy.”)
     Her reds must have thinned out, her greens, now fleshy." (revised 9.1.19) 

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
14 December 2018 (revised 16.12.18; 19.12.18; 20.12.18; 9.1.19; 1.3.19)
Translated from the original – 李清照: 如夢令 --   春晚 [*昨夜雨疏風驟]

1   昨夜雨疏風驟
2   濃睡不消殘酒
3   試問捲簾人
4   卻道海棠依舊

5   知否
6   知否
7   應是綠肥紅瘦


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a long-short lined “lyric” or “ci” to the tune of 寄調 Ru Meng Ling 如夢令 (Song of As If Dreaming) which, strictly, is not a tune (as the music is lost), but a “lyric pattern”.  Here, it is in a single stanza of 33 characters.  This English rendition faithfully follows the same long-short lined lyric pattern, but with a count of feet or beats (not syllables) to determine the length of the lines.  The long-short line-length pattern of the original is: 6-6/5-6/2-2-6//.  In this English rendition, I have shortened the four 6-character lines into 5-beat lines and the one 5-character line into a 4-beat line, keeping the two 2-character lines as 2-beat lines.  The line-length pattern of this English rendition is, thus: 5-5/4-5/2-2-5//.  (Please note I have used, for the line-length pattern here and for the rhyme scheme below, the single slash to represent the end of a sentence and the double slash, the end of the stanza/ poem.)  The original adopts one single rhyme throughout the poem with a rhyme scheme of: AA/xA// AAA//.  Unable to find a single perfect rhyme (as there are far fewer rhyme words in English than Chinese), I have in this rendition used the assonantal rhymes of “i” (unstressed, viz. gusty -1, silly -5, fleshy -7) and “ii” (stressed, viz. me -2, tree -4, me -6).

*Line 1:  Although can be interpreted to mean 疏放 (unbridled) or 疏狂 (uninhibited), I have decided for the plain meaning of 稀疏 (scanty) so as not to produce a scene of 狂風暴雨 (stormy wind and rain) which, in my view, is not what the poetess wanted to say, hence, my “the rains were sparse, the winds, gusty”.

*Line 2:  濃睡  is rendered as “A deep sleep” after considering “A good sleep” and “Slumbering”.  不消 is rendered as “clears not” after considering “dispels not”.  殘酒 does not mean leftover wine, but refers to the effects of wine remaining in the body, hence, my “the wine still remnant in me”.

*Line 3:  (try) (ask) means “politely ask”, and not “try to ask”, hence, my “I ask (=enquire) of …”.  捲簾 is rendered as “who rolls up the blinds”.  Here in 捲簾人 the word does not specify a gender and is, therefore, rendered as “the one” (rather than “the maid” or “the page”).  This opens the possibility of scenarios other than “a woman in her boudoir”, e.g. “a man in his chambers”, “the man rolls up the blinds, the woman asking”, or “the woman rolls up the blinds, the man asking”.

*Line 4:  卻道 which is the reply to the enquiry, is translated literally as “Who just says”.  海棠 is rendered as “begonia tree” after considering “crab apple tree” which sounds less appealing.  依舊 is rendered as “as ever” (after considering “as before” and “as always”), and to this I have added “Flowery” (after considering “Handsome” and “Pretty”) to make sense of “as ever” and to highlight that this reply and the subsequent response to the reply are about flowers or the lack of flowers.

Lines 5 and 6:  知否 is translated literally as “Know, not?” (after considering “Know it, not?”) to mean “Do you know it, or not know it?”.  To lines 5 and 6, I have respectively added “Oh silly!” and “Dear me!” to satisfy the rhyme and the 2-beat line length, and to make the dialogue more conversational.

*Line 7:  For (green) and (red), I had originally rendered them as “green leaves” and “red flowers”, then decided for the literal “green” and “red”, and then further decided to render this literal translation in the plural as “greens” and “reds” to make it clearer that they refer to the leaves and flowers.  I have translated literally as “now fleshy” and (thin) as “thinned out”.  In order to complete the “i” and “ii” rhyme, I have reversed the order of the original line to end the poem with the word “fleshy”.  I had considered translating應是 (it should be, the truth is) literally to begin the line, e.g. “The truth is: its reds have thinned out, its greens, now fleshy” which sounds much like lecturing, and have, therefore, decided for the more natural and conversational “Its red must have thinned out, its greens, now fleshy.”



Classical Chinese Poems in English


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