26 August 2022

杜牧 Du Mu: 贈別 二首 其一 Given on Parting, I of Two


Du Mu: Given on Parting, I of Two


1        O slim and slender, so fair, so fine --- thou, barely ten and three;

2        Like a nutmeg in bud in early March, at the tip of a sprig of the tree.

3        On the miles of streets of Yangzhou City, in vernal breezes mild,

4        Of all, with their bead-screens rolled open, none be equal to thee.


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

27 August 2021 (revised 28.8.2021; 2.9.2021; 3.9.2021)

Translated from the original - 杜牧: 贈別 二首 其一


1        娉娉嫋嫋十三餘

2        豆蔻梢頭二月初

3        春風十里揚州路

4        捲上珠簾總不如




*Form, Metre, and Rhyme:  The original is a 7-character quatrain 七言絕句 with a caesura after the fourth character.  This English rendition is in heptameter (7-beat lines) with a caesura after the fourth beat.  The rhyme scheme is AAxA as in the original.


*Line 1:  I have used  the “s” alliteration (“slim - slender”) to render the reduplication of (petite), and the “f” alliteration (“fair – fine”) to render the reduplication of (beautiful).  十三餘 (a little more than 13) is rendered as “thou, barely ten and three” to create the “three (line 1) – tree (line 2) - thee (line 4)” rhyme.


*Line 2:  I have taken 豆蔻 to refer to “nutmeg” (肉豆蔻) which is a tree, and not “cardamom” (小豆蔻) which is an herb.  Here, “nutmeg” stands for the flower of the tree.  I have, therefore, added “in bud” to render 豆蔻.  梢頭 is translated literally as “at the tip of  a sprig of the tree”; and 二月初 (second; month; beginning) is rendered as “in early March” as the lunar second month is roughly the solar month of March.


*Line 3:  揚州路 (Yangzhou; road)  is taken to mean the roads and streets in the city of

Yangzhou, not a road named Yangzhou or a road into or out of Yangzhou; and 十里 (10 ‘li’ =

roughly 3 miles) is taken to refer to the extent of the roads and streets (and not the distance of

a particular road) and is rendered simply as “miles”.  十里揚州路 is, therefore, rendered as “On

the miles of streets of Yangzhou City”.   春風 (spring; wind) is rendered as “in vernal breezes

mild” with “mild” added for its “ai” sound to break, at line 3, the “three (1) – tree (2) – thee (4)”



*Line 4:  捲上珠簾 is translated rather literally as “with their bead-screens rolled open” with “rolled open” to translate 捲上 (rolled; up).  總不如 is rendered as “Of all … none be equal to thee”, with “to thee” (implied in the original) added to echo “thou” in line 1 and to make plain the poem is addressed to the lady concerned.      



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Classical Chinese Poems in English


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