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
*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 嫋 (petite), and the “f” alliteration (“fair – fine”) to render the reduplication of 娉 (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.