06 December 2019

李清照 Li Qingzhao: 蝶戀花 Die Lian Hua -- 上巳召親族: 記夢 Gathering of Relatives ... : A Dream

Here is my rendition of another tune lyric poem by Li Qingzhao 李清照.  This poem is of a dream of the circumstances and mood of the poet before, during and after the 上巳 "third of third lunar month" Spring family gathering probably in (and certainly not later than) 建炎三年 (1129) in which year, in the eighth lunar month, her husband Zhao Mingcheng 趙明誠 passed away making such gatherings at her house impossible.

In reading the poem, please be prepared to be swayed by:
(a) the weariness of the endless night;
(b) the old old capital and homeland lost to the Jins 金;
(c) the lack lustre spring;
(d) food casually prepared;
(e) the numbing pleasures of wine and pickles; and
(f)  the mortality of spring and us mortals.

Li Qingzhao (1084-1151): Die Lian Hua (Butterflies Love Flowers) – Gathering of Relatives on the Third Day of the Third Lunar Month: A Dream

1   Weary, dreary the endless night, joyous feelings lacking;
2   In vain, I dream of the old capital
3   And the old capital road I should be taking.
4   To make this very year’s prime time a truly glorious spring,
5   Her flowers, her moon, better be seen as luminously endearing.

6   Casually plain are the dishes of food, short, so short of feasting,
7   But the wine so fine, the plums well pickled,
8   To the palate of one and all befittingly pleasing.
9   Tipsy, I deck my hair with flowers, O flowers, don’t be mocking,
10  Sadly, springtime, like us mortals, shall age and soon be dying.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
25 November 2019 (revised 28.11.19; 30.11.19; 4.12.19)
Translated from the original - 李清照: 蝶戀花 -- 上巳召親族: 記夢

1   永夜懨懨歡意少
2   空夢長安
3   認取長安道
4   為報今年春色好
5   花光月影宜相照

6   隨意杯盤雖草草
7   酒美梅酸
8   洽稱人懷抱
9   醉裏插花花莫笑
10  可憐春似人將老


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a tune lyric poem or ‘ci to the tune of Die Lian Hua 蝶戀花 (Butterflies Love Flowers) entitled 記夢 (A Dream), which is in two 5-line stanzas of 30 characters (= single syllable words) each with a line length pattern of 7-4-5/ 7-7.  This English rendition follows the same line length pattern, counting feet or beats (not words, nor syllables) to determine the length of lines.  To emulate the original: the 7-character (hepta-syllabic) lines are rendered in heptameter (7 beats), the 4-character (tetra-syllabic) lines, rendered in tetrameter (4 beats), and the 5-character (penta-syllabic) lines, in pentameter (5 beats).  To further emulate the original, a caesura is provided after the fourth beat for the six 7-beat lines, and after the second beat for the two 4-beat lines.  These strictly follow the original’s location of the caesura.  As for the two 5-beat lines, the caesura is located after the third beat which should be after the second beat if the original were to be strictly followed.  This English rendition also strictly follows the rhyme scheme of the original, which is a single rhyme for all lines except lines 2 and 7, thus: AxA/ AA// AxA/AA//.  Unable to find perfect (not even assonance) rhyme words, I have used the unstressed “-ing” ending of a word as rhyme, a slant rhyme.

Title:  上巳 is an ancient feast day on the third day of the third lunar month for family gatherings.  The title 上巳召親族 is rendered as “Gathering of Relatives on the Third Day of the Third Lunar Month”, and 記夢 as “A Dream”.    

*Line 1:  永夜 (always, night) is rendered as “the endless night” and moved to the middle of the line. 懨懨 (weak and weary) is rendered as “Weary, dreary” with the “-eary” internal rhyme to emulate the reduplication of the word (pronounced “yan”).  歡意少 (joy, feelings, not much) is rendered as “joyous feelings lacking.

*Lines 2 and 3:  空夢 in line 2 is translated literally as “In vain, I dream of”.  長安 (Chang’an) in lines 2 and 3 is rendered as “the old capital” as it is a euphemism for the North Song 北宋 capital of Bianjing 汴京 (present day Kaifeng 開封) lost to the Jin dynasty (1115-1234).  Thus, “the old capital” covers both Chang’an and Bianjing.  In line 3, 認取 (recognize, take) is rendered as “I should be taking”, and translated literally as “And the … road”.

Lines 4 and 5:  I have taken the formulation of 為報 (in order to report) ... in 
line 4 and ...宜  (suitably or better be) ... in line 5 to mean “to make the claim 
(that this year’s Spring is indeed glorious, the flowers and the moon) had better 
be seen as …”  為報in line 4 is, therefore, rendered as “To make”.  今年 
in line  4 is translated literally as “this very year(’s)”, and 色好 (Spring, 
colours, glorious) is rendered as “(this very year’s) prime time, a truly glorious
Spring”, with “prime time” added (which hints at the French word “printemps” 
meaning Spring and Springtime).  花光 (flower, light) and 月影 (moon, shadow 
or reflected image, both implying light) in line 5 are rendered as “Her flowers” 
and “her moon” without any reference to “light” which is to be covered by the 
word “luminously” used to also render 照   (shine) in the second half of the
line:  宜相照.  This is rendered as “better be seen as luminously endearing”.  宜 
is rendered as “better be seen as” as explained at the beginning of this note.  照 
is  rendered as “luminously” which also covers … in the first half of the
line, as explained above.   (if taken to mean “mutual”) should be understood
as “mutually between us humans on the receiving end and the flowers and the 
moon on the giving end”, rather than “mutually between the flowers on the one 
side and the moon on the other”.  In fact, is also “a word indicative of an 
action taken by one side to the other”, for example, 事相告 (have something to
tell) and 好言相勸 (have well-meant advice to offer).  Another example is 王維   
Wang Wei’s 明月來相照 “Only the clear moon comes to shine on me” in his
quatrain 竹里館 “Hut Among the Bamboos” (translated by Innes Herdan, “300
Tang Poems”, Taipei: Far East, 2000, p. 560) or my translation “None but the  
moon, to me, solace you bring” in “House in the Bamboo Grove” (posted here 
on 11 March 2008). 相照 is, therefore, rendered as “luminously endearing” after 
considering “… enchanting/ embracing”.  

Line 6:  隨意 is translated rather literally as “Casually plain”.  杯盤 (cups, 
dishes) refer to the food/ meal served and is rendered as “the dishes of food”.  雖 
(though) is rendered as “Yet” () to begin line 7.  草草 (not elaborate, not 
formal)  is rendered as “short, so short of feasting” with “short of feasting” to 
translate the meaning and the reduplication of “short” to emulate the 
reduplication of  in the original.  

Line 7:  "Yet" is added to begin the line to cover the omission of "though" in line 
6.  酒美 is translated literally as "the wine is fine"  梅酸 (plum, sour) is taken to 
mean "plums pickled (not sour)" and is rendered as "the plums well pickled".

Line 8:  (exactly) (fittingly) (people) 懷抱 (bosom or embrace) is 
rendered as “To the palate of one and all befittingly pleasing” with 洽稱 
rendered as “befittingly pleasing” and 人懷抱 rendered as “to the palate of one 
and all”.

Line 9:  醉裏 (drunk) is translated literally as “Tipsy”.  插花 is taken not to mean “arranging flowers”, but “decking flowers” and is rendered as “I deck my hair with flowers”.  花莫笑 is translated literally as “O flowers, don’t be mocking”.

Line 10:  可憐 (pitiable) is translated rather literally as “Sadly”.  (Spring) (like) (people) is rendered as “Springtime, like us mortals”.  (shall or soon) (grow old) is rendered as “shall age and soon be dying”.  


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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