25 June 2021

劉長卿 Liu Changqing: 逢雪宿芙蓉山主人 In Snow, Lodged at Hibiscus Hill, by Courtesy of the Master

What follows is my latest rendition of a five-character quatrain by the Tang poet Liu Changqing.  I take the poem to be more than just a statement of the poet's plight, but a note subtly expressing the poet's gratitude to the poverty-stricken master of the house for his hospitality without using a single word of thanks.  The magic lies in the ambiguity of the poet's word 歸 in line 4 which suggests 賓至如歸 (guests treated to feel as if at home) and my use of the word "home" to translate 屋 (house) in line 2 (home away from home?) 

Liu Changqing (714-790): In Snow, Lodged at Hibiscus Hill by Courtesy of the Master

1            The day waning, the green hills, a long way away;

2            The weather freezing, a simple, poor home, I sight.

3            At its twiggen gateway, a dog is heard a-barking;

4            In wind, in snow, I come to be lodged for the night.

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

24 June 2021

Translated from the original - 劉長卿: 逢雪宿芙蓉山主人

1            日暮蒼山遠

2            天寒白屋貧

3            柴門聞犬吠

4            風雪夜歸人


*Form, Metre, and Rhyme:  This English rendition is a quatrain (4-liner) in pentameter (5 feet or beats) with a medial caesura after the second beat to emulate the original Chinese which is a 5-character quatrain with a semantic pause after the second character.  The rhyme scheme is xAxA as in the original.

*Line 1:  I have taken 蒼山 , literally “green hills”, to be the destination of the poet as sojourner, hence, (far) is rendered as “a long way away” (rather than “still seem far”) to highlight the sojourner’s situation.

*Line 2:  白屋 (white; house) does not mean white house.  (white) should be taken to mean 空白 (blank or empty).  As from the outside one can only find the house () unadorned, simple, or plain, it is, hence, rendered as “plain”.  I have used “home” (which also means house or abode) instead of “house” to render (house), as “poor house” sounds the same as “poorhouse” which is where poor people on public charity are housed.  I have added “in sight” (which is implied in the situation) for the “sight … night” rhyme in lines 2 and 4 respectively.

*Line 3:  柴門 (door made of faggots or twigs) is rendered as “twiggen gateway”.

*Line 4:  in 夜歸人 (night; return; man) should not be taken to mean “return” as if line 4 says: the master of the house returning in wind and snow late at night.  It should, instead, be taken to mean 向往 (proceed to or inclined to), and in the context of the title “Lodged at (宿) … by Courtesy of the Master (主人)” and the flow of the poem itself, it should mean 入宿 “come to be lodged”.  Hence, line 4 refers to the sojourner in wind and snow coming at dusk to be lodged for the night.    


Classical Chinese Poems in English


Search This Blog