01 March 2019

李清照 Li Qingzhao: 如夢令 Ru Meng Ling -- 憶舊 Reminiscence [*常記溪亭 ...] [*I often recall ...]

Here is my rendition of one more "ci" 詞 or "tune lyric" poem by Li Qingzhao 李清照 of the Song dynasty.  I hope you enjoy it as much as her other poem written to the same tune "Song of As If Dreaming" 如夢令 posted here on 4 January 2019.  

I have, by now, translated 3 poems by Li Qingzhao, the first being her most famous poem to the tune of "'Note After Note' Slow Song" 聲聲慢 posted here on 5 December 2018.  Please enjoy them and share them with your friends.

Li Qingzhao (1084-1151): Ru Meng Ling (Song of As If Dreaming) -- Reminiscence [*I still recall ...]

1   I often recall that sunset gath'ring at Brookside Pavilion;
2   We got so drunk, too drunk to tell our bearings home.
3   By dusk, our gay mood spent, our boats we turned
4   Only to stray: straight into the depths of the lotus groves.
5   Ah, on, we rowed!
6   And on, we rowed!
7   Startling to flight, herons and gulls of the sandy shallows.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
18 February 2019 (revised 19.2.19; 20.2.19; 21.2.19; 22.2.19; 25.2.19; 26.2.19; 27.2.19)
Translated from the original - 李清照: 如夢令 -- 憶舊 [*常記溪亭 ...]

1   常記溪亭日暮
2   沉醉不知歸路
3   興盡晚回舟
4   誤入藕花深處
5   爭渡
6   爭渡
7   驚起一灘鷗鷺


*Form, Meter and Rhyme:  The original is a long-short lined “tune lyric” or “ci” to the tune of 寄調 “Ru Meng Ling” 如夢令, which is a “lyric pattern” (not tune pattern or music score as the music is lost) in a single stanza of 33 characters.  This English rendition follows strictly the same long-short lined lyric pattern but with a count of feet or beats to determine the length of the lines.  The long-short line-length scheme of both the original and this rendition is: 6-6/ 5-6/ 2-2-6//.  The original adopts one single rhyme, the rhyme scheme being: AA/xA/AAA.  This English rendition follows the same rhyme scheme.  However, as there are fewer rhyme words in English than Chinese, I have only been able to satisfy the rhyme scheme with the assonantal “o” sound in “pavilion -1” (close to, but strictly not assonantal), “home -2”, “groves -4”, “rowed -5 and 6”, and “shallows -7”.

*Line 1:  (always or often) (remember, recall) is rendered as "often recall". I had originally used “still recall” after considering “often recall” and “have always remembered” which I argued were all implied in the word “still” and need not be stated.  Another version of the poem has for , which meaning (had or had tried) is less appealing than “often”.  I have taken the event of the poem to be a gathering, with a lot drinking, at a scenic spot away from home, to be reached and to return by boat.  (day) (late) is taken to refer to the time of the gathering and is rendered as “sunset gath’ring”.  I have picked “sunset” over “aft’rnoon”, “late day”, “dusk” and “twilight”, and “gath’ring” over “party” and “outing”.  溪亭 (brook pavilion) is rendered as “Brookside Pavilion”.  Originally, I had considered “Dome” which rhymes perfectly with “home” in line 2.  I have now decided for “Pavilion” as the Chinese did not build domes.

*Line 2:  沉醉 (deeply drunk) is rendered as “We got so drunk”.  (not) (know) (return) (way) is rendered as “too drunk to tell the bearings home”.

*Line 3:  (interest, mood, excitement) (exhausted, finished) is rendered as “our gay mood spent” after considering “our merriment/pleasure spent”.  (late, night) is rendered as “By dusk” and moved up to begin the line, after considering “’Twas late”.  歸舟 (return to/by boat) is rendered as “our boats we turned”.

*Line 4:  誤入 (mistakenly enter) is rendered as “Only to stray straight in”.  (lotus) (flowers) (deep) (place) is rendered quite literally as “the depths of the lotus groves”, but with “flowers” omitted and “groves” (after considering “growths”) added in the translated rendition to clarify that the “depths” are of the lotus plants (stems, leaves and all) above the water surface, not just the flowers.  I had also considered “a labyrinth” but have decided for the literal translation of 深處 as “the depths”.  To make this a 6-beat line, “straight into the depths” should be read “da-dum da-da-dum” with the word “in” read stressed and the word “straight”, unstressed.

*Lines 5 and 6:  Although some commentators and translators have taken 爭渡 to read 怎渡 to mean “how to row through”, I prefer to adhere to the 爭渡 version to mean “energetically row”, not necessarily in competition.  Hence, the 2 lines are rendered as “Oh, on, we rowed! /And on, we rowed!”.  This interpretation leads logically to line 7 where waterfowls are startled to flight.  The word “on” must be read stressed to make the lines sound “da-dum da-dum”.

*Line 7:  驚起 (startle to rise in flight) is translated literally as “Startling to flight”.  (gulls) (egrets/herons) are translated literally as “herons and gulls” with the order reversed for a better flow of the line.  一灘 (one beach, or a stretch of shallows) is rendered as “of the sandy shallows” (after considering “shoal”) to close the line and the poem.  


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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