17 May 2019

李清照 Li Qingzhao: 武陵春 Wuling Chun -- 春晚 Late Spring

Today, I am posting another "tune lyric poem" by the great lady poet Li Qingzhao.  This was written 6 years after her husband's passing away.  I do hope you will enjoy both the original and my rendition.  Here we are:

Li Qingzhao (1084-1151): Wuling Chun (Spring in Wuling) -- Late Spring (The wind has waned, the soil scented …)

1  The wind has waned, the soil scented, the season of blossoms spent;
2  So late in the morn, O to comb my hair, I loathe.
3  Your things remain, but you live no more, all matters that matter reposed; 
4  O ere I speak, my tears I cannot withhold.

5  I’ve heard it said: at Shuangxi’s Twinbrook, springtime is still sublime;
6  To be there I wish, in a light boat adrift, afloat.
7  And yet I fear it would be found the grasshopper Twinbrook rowboat
8  Far too light to carry --- a load of so much sorrow.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
15 April 2019 (revised 17.4.19)
Translated from the original - 李清照: 武陵春 -- 春晚 (風住塵香花已盡)

1  風住塵香花已盡
2  日晚倦梳頭
3   物是人非事事休
4  欲語淚先流

5  聞道雙溪春尚好
6  也擬泛輕舟
7  又恐雙溪舴艋舟
8  載不動許多愁


*Form, Metre and Rhyme: The original is a tune lyric poem or “ci” to the tune of “Wuling Chun” 武陵春 which is in 2 stanzas of 24 and 25 characters respectively with a line length pattern of 7-5/7-5// 7-5/7-6//.  This English rendition follows the same pattern, but counting beats or feet (not words, nor syllables) to determine the line length.  For example, while the original is 7 characters or words (hence 7 syllables) long, my line 1 in English “The wind has waned, the soil scented, the season of blossoms spent” is in 12 words, 15 syllables, but in only 7 beats/feet.  This English rendition also strictly follows the xA/AA// xA/AA rhyme scheme of the original.  Unable to find perfect, full rhyme words (as there are far fewer such words in English than Chinese), I have used the assonantal “ou” rhyme in “loathe -2”, “reposed -3”, “withhold -4”, “afloat -6”, “rowboat -7”, and “sorrow -8”.

*Line 1:  means stop, cease, wane etc. and not live, reside, etc.   風住 is translated literally as “The wind has waned”.   (dust) refers to 塵土 (soil, ground, earth, dirt), and not 塵埃 (dust).  塵香 is, therefore, rendered as “the soil scented”, scented by fallen petals.  (flowers) (already) (finished) is rendered as “the season of blossoms spent” with the idea of “season” which is implied, added.

*Line 2:  As in my view, (dusk, night/ or late) in this context should mean “late” and not “dusk”, (day) should not, therefore, be taken to mean “day and night”, “day or night”, “from morn to dusk”, etc.  A literal translation of 日晚would be “late in the day” which still includes “dusk” while the original should only be reasonably understood as “late in the morning of the day”.  I have, therefore, rendered 日晚 as “So late in the morn”.  (tired)  means 厭倦 (tired of), not 疲倦 (physically tired), and is rendered as “I loathe”.  (comb) (head) is rendered quite literally as “my hair to comb” with “hair” used instead of “head” as 梳頭 can only mean to comb or groom or dress the hair on one’s or someone’s head.

*Line 3:  (things) (yes) (persons) (not) is taken to refer to the poet’s husband 趙明誠   Zhao Mingcheng who passed away some 6 years before this poem was penned and is, therefore, rendered as “Your things remain, but you live no more”.  事事 (matters) (closed) is rendered as “all matters that matter reposed”.

*Line 4:  (wish) (speak) (tears) (first) (flow) is rendered as “O ere I speak, my tears I cannot withhold”.

*Line 5:  聞道 is translated literally as “I’ve heard it said”.  雙溪 is both transliterated and translated as “Shuangxi’s Twinbrook”.  (spring) (still) (fine) is rendered as “springtime is still sublime” for the “… -time … -blime” internal rhyme.

*Line 6:  也擬 is rendered as “To be there I wish”, and 泛輕舟 as “in a light boat, adrift, afloat”.

*Line 7:  又恐 is rendered as “And yet I fear it would be found”, and 雙溪舴艋舟 as “the grasshopper Twinbrook rowboat”.

*Line 8:  載不動 is rendered as “Far too light to carry”, and 許多愁 as “a load of so much sorrow”.


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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