24 February 2021

元稹 Yuan Zhen: 菊花 Chrysanthemum Flowers

POSTSCRIPT (25.2.21):  On further consideration, I would like to have "like Tao Qian's" in the middle of line 1 reverted to "like Tao Qian".  The post is accordingly amended.

ORIGINAL POST:  Here is yet another rendition not posted on this blog.  It was posted on the HK Economic Journal's "Forum" website on 2 October 2010.  I have only made a few slight amendments.  In line 1, "like Tao Qian" now read "like Tao Qian's", and in line 3, "my dear chrysanthemum" now read "O dear Chrysanthemum".  I do hope you like it.

Yuan Zhen (779-831): Chrysanthemum Flowers

 1      Around my cottage, like Tao Qian, autumn flowers I grow,

2      Along the hedges I amble, till the slanting sun sinks low.

3      Of flowers, O dear Chrysanthemum, not that I love you best,

4  Just that once you are gone, there is no other flower to follow.

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

12th May 2010 (revised 13.5.10; 14.5.10; 15.5.10; 9.9.10; 24.2.21)

Translated from the original - 元稹: 菊花


1      秋叢繞舍似陶家

2      遍繞籬邊日漸斜

3      不是花中偏愛菊

4      此花開盡更無花



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

*Lines 1 and 2:  I am grateful to Xu Yuanchong (XYZ) for the rhyme of “grow-low” in his translation of the same poem entitled “Chrysanthemums” on p. 471 of his “Bilingual Edition 300 Tang Poems”, Beijing: Higher Education Press, 2000.

*Line 1:  Tao is the Jin Dynasty poet Tao Yuanming 陶淵明 or Tao Qian 陶潛 (365-427) who, in recluse, loved the chrysanthemum.  I have translated 陶家 as “Tao Qian” to pave the way to end the line with the rhyme word “grow”.  I have chosen not to translate as “bushes/plants” but as “flowers” which chrysanthemums are.

*Lines 3 and 4:  I have changed the third person “chrysanthemum” in the original to the second person in this English rendition which, I hope, makes it much more personal as if the poet is addressing this flowering plant.

*Line 3:  I had considered “not that I love/favour you most” and “not that on you I dote”, and have decided for “not that I love you best”.

*Line 4:  I had considered “Once past your prime, you’re gone”, “Once past your prime and gone”, “Once time is up, you’re gone”, “Once your prime is spent”, “Just that once you’re spent”, “Just that you once gone” and “Only once you’re gone”, but have decided for “Just that once you are gone”.  I had considered the stronger rhyme “blow” (e.g., “no other flower will blow”), but have decided for the weaker “follow” so as to end the line (and the poem) on a falling tune suggestive of a passive acceptance of nature.  I have chosen “follow” also for its ambiguity.  In this context, “follow”, which can mean either and both of (a) no flowers to come after (follow) in sequence of time or 無花再開, and (b) no flowers to go after (follow) as an admirer or 再無花可賞.  The word “follow” aptly translates 再無花.


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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