28 August 2021

My recent publication --- "60 Chinese Poems in English Verse" 《英韻唐詩六十首》

Brief Description 

This book by Andrew W.F. Wong (the last President of Hong Kong's Legislative Council before sovereignty reverted in 1997 to China) is a collection of 60 Tang dynasty (618–907) Chinese quatrains (4-line poems) he has rendered into English in verse form.  These are all new translations, never published before in book form.

The English verse form he has chosen is that of  “accentual verse” (much like that of hymns, ballads, and nursery rhymes) which counts only the stressed syllables both for the rhythm and for the length of the poetic lines.  This has made his renditions melodious to the English ear --- English being an accentual language.  And so, accentual, must verse in English be.

Melody and rhythmicity are further enhanced by his end-rhyming lines 1, 2, and 4 or just lines 2 and 4, as the case may be in the original, and by the provision of a caesura or pause in or near the middle of the line.

Just listen to his reading of any of these poems, particularly ones of 6-beat or 7-beat lines, to experience the music of this poetry. Please use the QR Code on the top right-hand corner of the poem to gain access to his reading. 


20 August 2021

權德輿 Quan Deyu: 玉臺體 十二首 其十一 A Poem in the Jade Terrace Style, XI of Twelve

Today, I am posting my rendition of the last of the thirty-seven 5-character quatrains 五言絕句 in the most popular anthology "300 Tang Dynasty Poems" 唐詩三百首.  This poem is by Quan Deyu 權德輿, a Mid-Tang poet, and is the only poem by him collected in the anthology.  Hope you like it,  Here we go:-

Quan Deyu (759-818): A Poem in the Jade Terrace Style, XI of Twelve


1         Last night, in sleep, my nightwear’s girdle came loose,  

2         Now dawn, come ladybirds --- be omens of bliss, I pray.

3         My rouge, my powders: my make-up I shan’t neglect,

4         ‘Cos my man is returning and may well be home today.


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

6 July 2021 (revised 7.7.21; 8.7.21; 9.7.21; 13.8.21; 16.8.21; 18.8.21; 19.8.21)

Translated from the original - 權德輿: 玉臺體 十二首 其十一


1            昨夜裙帶解

2            今朝蟢子飛

3            鉛華不可棄

4            莫是藁砧




*Form, Metre, and Rhyme:  The original is a 5-character Chinese quatrain (or jueju絕句) with a caesura after the second character.  The 4 lines are rhymed xAxA.  This English rendition is a quatrain in 5-beat lines with a caesura after the second beat and rhymed as in the original.

 *Lines 1 and 2:  These 2 lines in the original simply depicts two omens of bliss.  At the end of line 2 of this English rendition, I have added “be omens of bliss” (not in the original) to make them readily understood as such.  To end the line, I have further added “I pray” which heightens the persona’s expectation.  In line 1, I have translated (skirt) as “nightwear” which is more appropriate for the occasion.  In the same line, I have added “in sleep” (not in the original) to make clear the persona did not consciously loosen her girdle as, if she did, it no longer qualifies as an omen.  In my translation of line 2, I have abandoned the imagery of 蟢子 (a long-legged spider) as, although sounds the same as (happiness), a literal translation of it as “spider” may give rise to unpleasant connotations.  I have, therefore, changed the imagery to “ladybirds” (= ladybugs) which is an omen of good luck in English.  The last word (fly) is rendered as “come”.  This is based on my interpretation of this second omen as the good luck insects “fly to come” to the persona” in which interpretation, the implicit “coming” is much more meaningful than the aimless “flying”.  Further, I suggest reading the word “come” unstressed to keep the line within 5 beats.

 *Line 3:  鉛華 (face powder made of white lead) is rendered as “My rouge, my powders: my make-up”, with “rouge” and “make-up” added.  Here, is not taken to literally mean “throw away” or “discard”, but understood as “put aside” or “not put to use”.  Hence, 不可棄 means “must not be put aside” or “must be put to use” and is rendered as “I shan’t neglect”.

 *Line 4:  藁砧 is an allusion to an ancient quatrain in the anthology 玉臺新詠 “New Songs from the Jade Terrace” compiled by 徐陵 Xu Ling (507-583).  The quatrain is a riddle in which  藁砧 in line 1 stands for “husband”, and I have rendered it here as “my man”.  In the context of lines 3 and 4, I have interpreted the phrase莫是 (not; is) as identical, in both meaning and phrasing, to 要不是 (if not for or but for) in Modern Chinese.  It can, therefore, be best understood as 因為 (because), either with “Because” or “For” or “’Cos” to begin the line, or even without the word.  Briefly, these 2 lines convey this message: I must not neglect my make-up all because my man is coming home soon.  Line 4 is, therefore, rendered as “’Cos my man is returning and may well be home today”, with “and may well be home today” (not in the original) added to make it a 5-beat line and to complete the “I pray (line 2) – today (line 4)” rhyme.  I had originally considered the more literal alternative of “No, my man is returning and may well be home today”, with the word “No” to translate “” and to echo “I shan’t” in line 3, and with the word “is” to translate “”, but have rejected it as the word “No”, even if read unstressed, distracts and detracts.      


Classical Chinese Poems in English


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