04 July 2020

王維 Wang Wei: 相思 Mutual Yearning

Today, I am posting my rendition of Wang Wei's beautiful little quatrain "Mutual Yearning" which I completed years ago in 2008, but never posted.  I hope you will enjoy it.  Here we go:

Wang Wei (701-761): Mutual Yearning

1            There grow in the south country: jequirity trees;  
2            O how they shoot and sprout, O when comes spring!
3            I pray you pick and pluck, the more, their red beans,
4            A stuff which best intimates our mutual yearning.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者:黃宏發
10 July 2008 (revised 12.7.08; 16.7.08; 19.7.08)
Translated from the original - 王維: 相思

1            紅豆生南國
2            ()來發幾枝
3            ()君多釆()
4            此物最相思


*    This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.

*    Title and line 4:  It is hard to translate相思 but I think “mutual yearning” or “mutual longing” best approximates it.  I had earlier considered using words such as “reciprocal”, “reciprocating”, “reciprocated”, “requited”, “two-way”, and “likewise”, but have decided that “mutual yearning” is best.

*    Lines 1 and 3:  I had considered using “red bean trees” for紅豆in line 1 but have decided to use the proper name “jequirity trees” because the poem refers to the ornamental red jequirity beans and not the edible red beans.  I have somehow covered the image of “red beans” in line 3 as the line, as written, requires an object, and as the “stuff”, as subject, in line 4 requires a clear and proximate reference to “red beans’.  It is not clear if in line 3 should mean “more beans” or “more often”.  I prefer the latter as the poet, obviously, is not asking his friend/ lover to harvest in bulk the ornamental red jequirity beans.  I could have accordingly rendered it as “… pick and pluck, more often, their red beans”, but have finally decided for “… pick and pluck, the more, their red beans” which, though more inclined towards “more beans”, is ambiguous enough to also cover “more often”.

*    Line 2:  I had considered “O how their shoots sprout” but have decided for “O how they shoot and sprout” which sounds far better.

*    Line 4:  The word “intimates” here means hints, indirectly indicates, implies, suggests, etc. which word subtly intimates an intimacy between the poet and the person being addressed to.


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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