25 January 2021

金昌緒 Jin Changxu : 春怨 A Springtime Plaint

Here is yet another rendition of mine which I had forgotten to post here on the Classical Chinese Poems in English blog.  (It was posted on the Hong Kong Economic Journal's Forum web on 22 July 2011.)


I am sure you will at once notice I have added quite a lot of words which are not in the original.  I have done that for various purposes.  For rhyme: I have added "I say" in line 1, "all day" in line 2, "a long way away" in line 4.  For metre (the 5 feet or beats pentameter): I have added all of the above, plus "willow" in line 2, "I fear" and "abrupt" in line 3, and "my man, in" in line 4.  At least some of these additions elucidate the meaning of the line concerned, e.g., line 5's "cannot reach Liaoxi" 不得到遼西    must  have   meant to meet the female persona's lover, hence, "Reach not my man, in Liaoxi ..." in my rendition.  I hope you will find the other additions equally elucidating.  

This is a pretty little poem.  Please enjoy reading it out loud. 


Jin Changxu (800’s): A Springtime Plaint

1      O shoo away those yellow birds, I say,

2      Not to trill on the willow twigs all day.

3      Their trills will, I fear, my dream disrupt abrupt,

4      Reach not my man, in Liaoxi, a long way away.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發

10th November 2009 (revised 12.11.09; 16.11.09; 23.11.09; 26.11.09; 27.11.09; 12.1.10; 2.6.10; 19.7.11; 22.9.11)

Translated from the original - 金昌緒: 春怨

1      打起黃鶯兒

2      莫教枝上啼

3      啼時驚妾夢

4      不得到遼西


*  This English rendition is in pentameter (5 feet or beats) while the original is in 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is AAxA while the original is xAxA.

*  Line 1:  打起 mean chase away.  I have decided for “shoo away” after consideration “flush away”.  For 黃鶯兒, I have chosen “yellow birds” instead of “golden orioles” as these birds are the cause of the complaint and should be shorn of beauty.  I have interpreted the line to be an instruction to her maids or servants, hence, I have added “I say” (or “I pray” if more genteel, neither in the original) to end the line.  This is done to make line 1 also rhyme (originally not rhymed).

*  Line 2:  For , I had considered “twitter” and “chirp” but have decided for “trill” as this is how orioles sing.  I have added “willow” to echo “Springtime” in the title (willows, by convention, indicate spring).  I have also added “all day” to make clear my interpretation that the persona’s wish is to doze off or take a nap during daytime to dream of her man (= husband).

*  Line 3:  The word should not be literally translated as “concubine”; its correct meaning is “first person feminine”, i.e., “I” or “my” in the feminine gender.  This is how a woman refers to herself.  In the context of this poem, the persona is most likely the wife, although she can be a “concubine” or just a “lover”, hence, the addition of “my man” instead of “my husband” in line 4.

*  Line 4:  For 不得到 (cannot reach …), I have decided for “Reach not my man” with the addition of “my man”, after considering “See not …” and “Meet not …”.  遼西 which means “West Liao” (the western part of Liao) is transliterated as “Liaoxi”.  This has nothing to do with the idea of “west” in most frontier poem, Liaoxi being the north, north-eastern frontier.  I had originally translated it as “at the frontier” but have decided for the transliteration.  I had originally added “far away” to close the poem, but have now decided for “a long way away”.



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