03 December 2020

趙嘏 Zhao Jia: 舊感 Nostalgia/ 江樓有感 Brook Tower Nostalgia

Here is a quatrains by Zhao Jia 趙嘏 which I translated some 12 years ago.  It had never been posted/ published anywhere.  

The original is a 7-character quatrain with a caesura (pause) after the fourth character.  This English rendition is in hexameter (6 feet or beats) with a caesura (pause) in the middle (i.e. after the third foot or beat).

This is a poem about friendship expressed in a most subdued and subtle manner.  Here the poem goes:

Zhao Jia (806-875):  Nostalgia/ Brook Tower Nostalgia

1      Alone, I ascend the Brook Tower,  to afar my sentiments fly.

2      The moon still shines on the water,  the water mirrors the sky.

3      (O where tonight is my friend, together the moon we embraced?)

     O where tonight is my fellow with whom the moon we embraced? (revised 23.2.21) 

4      Same but paled is the scenery, to the scene of the year gone by.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者黄宏發

12th November 2008 (revised 14.11.08; 17.11.08; 18.11.08)  

Translated from the original - 趙嘏:  舊感/ 江樓有感

1      獨上江樓思渺然

2      月光如水水如天

3      同來望月人何處

4      風景依稀似去年


*  The original is in 7-character lines.  This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet).  The rhyme scheme is AAxA as in the original.

*  Line 1:  There is a 悄然 “silently or sadly” version of line 1.  I prefer the 渺然 “afar” version as the poem is a subtle one with sadness pervading, without it ever mentioned.

*  Line 2:  The word (like) should be taken to mean or (to go to) as in 如廁 (to go to the toilet).  I have, therefore, abandoned possible lines such as “The moonlight is like the water, the water like the sky”.  The line is rendered as “The moon still shines on the water, the water mirrors the sky”, with the word “still” added to show the poet is reflecting on the past.

*  Line 3:  The word “tonight”, which is not in the original but can be reasonably inferred, is added for clarity and for the extra foot needed to complete the 6-beat line.  For (gaze at, behold) I had considered “we gazed” but have decided for “we embraced” to paint a picture of "we embracing the moon" and "the moon embracing us"..

*  Line 4:  “Same but paled … to the scene of …” is not a precise translation of 依稀 (vaguely) (similar), but I find it much more poetic than lines such as “Faintly/ Vaguely/ Hazily similar … to that of …”  In my rendition, I have also played on the difference between “scenery” which is and ”scene” which includes both (scenery) and (sentiments).


Classical Chinese Poems in English


Search This Blog