17 September 2021

劉方平 Liu Fangping: 春怨 A Plaint on the Passing of Spring

Here is my most recent rendition of quatrains.  This is a quatrain by Liu Fangping 劉方平 of the High Tang 盛唐 period (713-766).  After failing to join officialdom through the imperial examinations, Liu Fangping decided to live like a hermit, and is lauded by posterity as a master of the quatrain. 

In my last post (in early September 2021), I announced I have published a book entitled "60 Chinese Poems in English Verse".  A more accurate description of the content of the said book is "60 Tang Dynasty Quatrains Translated in English Verse".  Although this quatrain is not in that collection,  I still hope you will find time to acquire a copy and leaf through the pages.   

Liu Fangping (circa 758): A Plaint on the Passing of Spring


1                Through my gauzed window, a setting sun, evening O now nearing;

2                In my gilded quarters, my lord absent, tears on my face appearing.

3                Still and desolate, the deserted courtyard, spring is about to pass;

4                Fallen pear-flowers aground abound, no one, to my door, is coming.


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

30 August 2021 (revised 31.8.2021; 1.9.2021; 2.9.2021; 3.9.2021)

Translated from the original - 劉方平: 春怨


1                紗窗日落漸黃昏

2                金屋無人淚痕

3                寂寞空庭春欲晚

4                梨花滿地不開門



*Form, Metre, and Rhyme:  The original is a 7-character quatrain 七言絕句 with a caesura (pause) after the fourth character.  This English rendition is in heptameter (7-beat lines) with a caesura after the fourth beat.  The original’s rhyme scheme is AAxA which is followed in this English rendition although only in the assonance of the “-ing” syllable and not in perfect rhymes.

*Line 1:  紗窗日落 is translated rather literally as “Through my gauzed window, a setting sun”. 漸黃昏 (gradually; evening) is rendered as “evening O now nearing”.

*Line 2:  金屋 (gold; house), translated literally as “In my gilded quarters”, refers to the persona’s well-appointed living quarters.  This is an allusion to the quarters of a queen/ concubine, attributed to Emperor Wu Di 武帝 of the Han dynasty, which can be extended to the quarters of a lover/ mistress.  無人 (no; man) should be read as part of the first half-line (hemistich) of 金屋無人 which is followed by a pause (caesura), and then by the remaining 見淚痕 half-line.  It is a phrase which stands alone and is not part of a possible phrase 無人見 (no man sees) which ignores the presence of a caesura between and .  Hence, 無人 should be taken to mean “alone, in no one’s presence”, and not “no one sees”.  To make it well suited to the “gilded quarters”, I have made the lack of presence specific, and have rendered 無人 as “my lord absent”.  (see, or appear), which begins the 見淚痕 hemistich, is taken to mean (appear) and is rendered as “appearing” which ends the English line.  淚痕 (tears; traces or stains) is rendered as “tears on my face” (after considering “traces of my tears”), with rendered as “on my face” rather than “traces” or “stains”.

*Line 3:  I have used “Still and desolate” to translate 寂寞 to cover its two meanings of (a)  “quiet” and (b) “lonesome”.  空庭 is translated literally as “a deserted courtyard”.  in should, in context, be taken to mean “is about to” or “is just going to”, and not “wish” or “desirous”.  and , in the same context, should be taken to mean “late” and “spring”.  This half line 春欲晚 is, hence, rendered as “spring is about to pass”.

*Line 4:  梨花滿地 is rendered as “Fallen pear-flowers aground abound” with (a) the choice of “aground” – “abound” for the “-ound” internal rhyme, and (b) the addition of “Fallen” for the “f” alliteration of “Fallen” - “-flowers”.  不開門 (not; open; door) is taken to mean “用開門 (no need to open the door).  My interpretation of “” as “不用”, though speculative, is based on the usage of “” for “不用”, such as in “不謝” which means “不用謝” (no need to thank me = you are welcome).  As for why there is no need to open the door, the context of the poem (line 2: 無人 “my lord absent”; line 3: “deserted”) dictates it is because no one will come.  So, to say不用開門 “no need to open the door” is to subtly say 無人會來 ”no one will come”.  不開門 is, thus, taken to mean 無人會開門進來 and rendered as “no one, to my door, is coming”.



Classical Chinese Poems in English


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