04 May 2020

韋莊 Wei Zhuang: 金陵圖 Six Landscapes of Jinling

Here is my rendition of another Jinling landscape quatrain by Wei Zhuang entitled "Six Landscapes of Jinling" which I promised in my last post (April 2020) when I posted Wei Zhuang's "A Landscape of Jinling -- The Capital City".  You may wish to go to it after this.

You may also wish to spend some time on the Comments made by my friend Ray Heaton on the last poem and my Comments in reply.  They may be lengthy but worth the while, particularly on the interpretation of the first 2 lines of this poem.

Here we go.  Thank you, Ray.

Wei Zhuang (836-910): Six Landscapes of Jinling

1   Who says ‘tis really impossible, to portray a grieving heart ---
2   Painters being prone to paint, what the worldly deem as art.
3   O look at these six landscapes of Jinling, her Six Dynasties gone,
4   See dying trees and chilling clouds, all over the city rampart.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
31 October 2019 (revised 1.11.19; 2.11.19)
Translated from the original - 韋莊: 金陵圖

1   誰謂傷心畫不成
2   畫人心逐世人情
3   君看六幅南朝事
4   老木寒雲滿故城


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English rendition is a quatrain in heptameter (7 feet or beats) to emulate the original which is a 7-character “jueju” 絕句 (quatrain).  To further emulate the original, I have given to each of the four 7-beat lines a caesura (pause) after the first 4 beats.  The rhyme scheme is AAxA as in the original.

*Title and Line 3:  金陵 (present day: 南京 Nanjing) in the title is rendered simply as “Jinling” in transliteration.  Jinling was the capital of the 4 successive Southern Dynasties of Song, Qi, Liang and Chen in the 南北朝 North and South Dynasties period (420-581) and their 2 southern predecessors, namely Wu (222-280) and 東晉Eastern Jin (317-420).  These 6 dynasties in the South, with Jinling as capital, are collectively known as 六朝 “Six Dynasties” or as 南朝 “South Dynasties”.  Although referred to in line 3 of the original as “South Dynasties”, it is rendered as “Six Dynasties” in my rendition in “her Six Dynasties gone” to evoke sentiments of the decay and fall of dynasties.  in the title is rendered as “Landscape(s)” to mean landscape paintings.  The title of the poem 金陵圖 is, therefore, rendered as “Six Landscapes of Jinling” as line 3 of the poem clearly refers to 6 paintings: 六幅 (six, scrolls, matters).  Wei Zhuang has another poem with the same title of 金陵圖 (with 臺城 added or as an alternative title) which title I have rendered as “A Landscape of Jinling – The Capital City”.

*Line 1:  誰謂 is translated literally as “Who says”.  傷心 (hurt, heart) is rendered as “a grieving heart”.  畫不成 (paint, not, succeed) is rendered as “… ’tis really impossible to portray” after considering “… truly/ well/ well nigh impossible …”  The line is not a mere question, but a rhetorical one, to say it is possible to portray a grieving heart, as will be made clear in lines 3 and 4.

*Line 2:  畫人 (paint, man) is taken to mean “one who paints” and not “to paint people” and is, therefore, translated literally as “Painters”.  心逐 (heart, pursue) is understood as “the heart is after” and is rendered as “being prone to paint”.  世人情 (world, men, sentiments) is understood as “the taste of the worldly people” and is rendered as “what the worldly (to mean, the worldly people) deem as art”.  This line is interpreted as an elaboration and explanation of why it is so hard to portray a grieving heart, but more importantly as a rejection of “what the worldly deem as art”.

*Line 3:  君看 (you, look) is rendered as “O look at”, with “O” added to lead on to the painter’s and poet’s grieving heart brought out by the “dying trees and chilling clouds” in line 4.  六幅 (six, scrolls, … matters) is rendered as “these six landscapes of Jinling”.  南朝 (south, dynasties) is rendered as “her Six Dynasties gone” after considering “… past”.  (Please see note above on “Title and Line 3”.)

*Line 4:  老木寒雲 (old, wood, cold, clouds) is rendered as “See dying trees and chilling clouds”, with “See” added to follow from “O look” in line 3.  I suggest reading “See dying trees and chilling clouds” as 4 iambuses (didum didum didum didum) with “See” read unstressed.  滿故城 (fill, old, city) is rendered as “all over the city rampart”.


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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