29 May 2021

陶潛 Tao Qian: 飲酒 二十首 其五 (首四句) Drinking Wine, V of Twenty (first 4 lines)

Recently, I had been asked by a friend of mine to translate a 2-line Chinese saying which reads: 小隱隱於野 大隱隱於市.  To this, there is a 3-line contender which turns the second line into 中隱 and adds a third line of 大隱隱於朝 which I do not quite appreciate.  I have attempted a translation which reads:

      Lesser hermits seek seclusion in only the wild,

      The great hermit finds reclusion even in towns.

I must say this is inspired by another great poet of even older vintage than the Tang dynasty masters.  This is Tao Qian or better known as Tao Yuanming of the Jin dynasty, a few hundred years before Tang, who is known as the Grand Hermit.

Below are four of Tao's numerous lines which have to do with hermitage and reclusion.  I hope you will enjoy both his lines and my rendition.  Here we go:

Tao Qian (365-427): Drinking Wine, V of Twenty (first 4 lines)


1    I make my abode in the realm of men,

2    Unperturbed by the din of a bustling borough.

3    You ask: “How could it ever be so?”

4    A recluse at heart, my abode, likewise remote.


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

29 May 2021

Translated from the original - 陶潛:  飲酒 二十首 其五 (首四句)


1    結廬在人境                                 

2    而無車馬喧                                   

3    問君何能爾                                

4    心遠地自偏                     



*Form, Meter and Rhyme:  The original is a 10-line poem, translated here are the first 4 lines.  This English rendition is in accentual verse of 4-beat (tetrameter) lines.  The rhyme scheme is xAxA as in the original, but in assonance of the vowel ‘ou’ in “borough” (line 2) and “remote” (line 4).

*Line 2:  車馬 (carts; horses) which represent the activities of “the realm of men” (line 1), a town, hence rendered as a synecdoche of a “borough”.  (noise) is rendered as “din of a bustling …”.  而無 (and/but; no) is clarified as “Unperturbed by”.

*Line 4:  心遠 (heart; far away) is rendered as “A recluse at heart”.  (ground, place) is rendered as “my abode”, and 自偏 (self; remote) as “likewise remote”.    


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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