05 October 2017

王之渙 Wang Zhihuan: 登鸛雀樓 Ascending the Stork Tower

Of the recently reported 10 most popular Tang dynasty poems selected in Hong Kong, I found I had already translated 9 (all being quatrains), but only 8 had been posted here on this blog.  

I had mistakenly thought my rendition of this most famous "Stork Tower" quatrain by Wang Zhihuan which I penned some 10 years ago when I first picked up this hobby, must have been posted long ago.  My apologies!  

I hasten to polish my original rendition and have it posted.  "There, up the steps one goes!"  Here we go!

[Added: 11.10.17]  But indeed, haste makes waste.  I have decided to revert to my original rendition of line 4 as "A floor, or more,  oh, upstairs there one goes!"  Here we go:-

Wang Zhihuan (688-742): Ascending the Stork Tower

1  (Over the mountains, the white sun daily sets;)
    Over the mountains, daily the white sun sets, (revised 11.10.17)    
(And into the ocean, the Yellow River flows,)
    And in to the ocean, the Yellow River flows.(revised 11.10.17)
(Wishing to eye a thousand miles of sights---)
    Wishing  to eye---the view of a thousand miles, (revised 11.10.17)   
(A floor and more, there up the steps one goes.)
    A floor, or more: oh, upstairs there one goes. (revised 11.10.17)

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者黃宏發
4th August 2007 (revised 3.9.07; 5.12.07; 26.2.08; 25.6.08; polished 3.10.2017; 6.10.17; 11.10.17)
Translated from the original- 王之: 登鸛雀樓


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a 5-character quatrain which is made up of 2 perfectly parallel couplets.  This English rendition is in pentameter (5 beats or feet) to emulate the original 5-syllable lines.  I have been able to render the first couplet (lines 1 and 2) as a perfectly parallel couplet except for the addition, in line 1, of the word “daily” for the 5-beat metre.  I have not attempted to render the second couplet in the parallel form.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.

*Lines 1 and 2:  I am grateful to my poet friend Bei Dao 北島 for pointing out to me that for 白日, “white sun” is superior to my original “bright sun” as only “white” can appropriately parallel “Yellow” in line 2.  (I can alternatively retain my original “bright” in line 1 and change “Yellow” into “muddy” in line 2.)  In line 1, I have added "daily" (originally after, now 11.10.17) before "the white sun" primarily for reason of the 5-beat metre, but also to cover the meaning of as “day” in addition to meaning “sun”.  In line 2, I have rendered (sea) as “ocean” in order to match the sound of “mountains” in line 1.

*Line 3:  千里 (1,000 “li”), though strictly only about 300 miles, should be taken as a hyperbole and rendered as “a thousand miles”.
*Line 4:  I take 更上一層樓 not to mean “go up one floor”, but to mean “go up one more floor" (and up to the very top, if necessary.)  I had originally penned "oh, upstairs there one goes" to translate 上 ...  樓 but had revised it to "oh up the steps one goes".  I have now decided to revert to the original. 

03 September 2017

杜甫 Du Fu: 江南逢李龜年 Meeting Li Guinian in Jiangnan

Today, I give you a poem by Du Fu in which the name of Cui Jiu 崔九 is mentioned.  Let there be no confusion: this is not the same Cui Jiu as the one sent off by Pei Di in his "Farewell to Cui Jiu" posted here August 2017.  This is clarified in the notes to this poem and to the previous poem.

I particularly like the ambiguity of lines 3 and 4, "a truly scenic land of the south ... in a season of flowers ... falling".  How beautiful, yet how sad!  I hope my adding, in my rendition, the word "all" between "flowers" and "falling" can work the magic.  Here we go:-

Du Fu (712-770): Meeting Li Guinian in Jiangnan

1  At the house of the Prince of Qi, regularly I saw you;
2  On stage in the hall of Cui Jiu’s, oft-times I heard you sing.
3  Now Jiangnan, this truly scenic land of the south, ‘tis here
4  That you again I meet, in a season of flowers, all falling.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
6th January 2017 (revised 8.1.17; 10.1.17; 19.1.17)
Translated from the original - 杜甫: 江南逢李龜年



*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English rendition of the quatrain is in hexameter (6 feet or beats) while the original is in 7-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original although "sing (in line 2), falling (in line 4)" is an imperfect rhyme.

*Title and the Poem:  This is one of the last poems by Du Fu when High Tang 盛唐 was at its end and the dynasty, past its prime.  Shorn of his office, Du wandered to 江南 (river south) specifically to 潭州 Tanzhou (in present day 湖南 Hunan province) where he met again 李龜年 Li Guinian who was then performing in the streets for a living.  Li Guinian was a famous musician and singer who was much in the favour of the then Emperor Xuanzong 玄宗 and loved by one and all.
*Line 1:  岐王, younger brother of the then Emperor Xuanzong 玄宗, is rendered as “the Prince of Qi”, and  (home, lodging) as “the house”.  I suggest both “re-“ and “-ly” in “regularly” should be read stressed, with “saw”, of course, read stressed, hence, 3 beats for this 2nd half of the line.

*Line 2:  崔九 (Cui the Ninth) refers to 崔滌 Cui Di who was 殿中監 Director of the Palace Administration in the halcyon days of Emperor Xuanzong 玄宗 (hall) (front) is rendered as “in the hall” with “on stage” added to indicate a hall for performance on a stage located in front of the hall.  幾度聞 is rendered as “oft-times I heard you sing” with “sing” added to, obviously, rhyme with “falling” in line 4 but also to make clear the nature of Li Guinian’s performance which must be song and music.

*Line 3:  I have rendered 正是 (precisely is) as “Now … ‘tis here”.  The word “now” is chosen as it is used to call attention to whatever follows which is exactly what 正是 is used in Chinese.  (Just imagine adding 正是 to any 1 or 2 lines of quotable quotes in Chinese.)  It is chosen for the equally important reason that it turns the “past” of lines 1 and 2 to the “now” of lines 3 and 4.  The literal meaning of 正是 (precisely is) is more than adequately covered by “’tis here”.  I have used “Jiangnan” to render江南 to repeat the transliteration used in the title, but have added “land of the south” to amplify and clarify.  好風景 is rendered as a description “this truly scenic” (descriptive of Jiangnan), rather than a statement that “the scenery (in Jiangnan) is truly fine”.

*Line 4:  又逢君 is rendered literally as “That you again I meet”, but moved from the end to the beginning of the line to follow through from the enjambed “’tis here” in line 3.  I had initially rendered 落花時節 as “in a season of flowers falling” which can mean a beautiful season, but which can also mean the demise of spring.  The original is not specific and is probably meant to be ambiguous.  As the historical context dictates that this can or even must be a sad or soulful season, I had toyed with the idea of shortening the first half to 2 beats (e.g. “That again we meet” or “That I meet you again”) and adding a one-beat word expressive of regret or sadness (e.g. “alack” or “alas”) or adding the word “sad” before “season” to complete the 6-beat line.  However, as the text of the poem contains no such words, not even words suggestive of them, I decided against it.  I then turned to working on the second half of the line and have come to decide for adding a “comma” and the word “all” between “flowers” and “falling”.  I hope this arrangement succeeds in retaining the beauty of flowers falling, and in subtly suggesting the end of spring which stands for the demise of the prime time of the Tang dynasty and the now impoverished, aging Li Guinian and Du Fu.  This last line now reads: “… ‘tis here/ That you again I meet, in a season of flowers, all falling.”  

05 August 2017

裴迪 Pei Di: 送崔九 Farewell to Cui Jiu

Today, I am posting a little poem by Pei Di 裴迪 who was a close friend of Wang Wei's 王維 and the circle of three friends included Wang Wei's brother-in-law 崔興宗 Cui Xingzong, the very Cui Jiu (the Ninth) 崔九 in the title Pei Di was writing to and sending off.

Hope you like my rendition:- 

Pei Di (716-?): Farewell to Cui Jiu

1   (Back to the hills you’re going, no matter far or near;)
     Back to the hills you're going, no matter near or far;  (revised 16.8.17)
2   Be ever filled with the beauty of every mound and dale.
3   (Follow not the folly of that fickle Wuling fellow, who)
     Pray that never you follow that fickle Wuling fellow who  (revised 5.8.17)
4   Alas but briefly stayed in the Peach Blossoming Vale. 

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者: 黃宏發
12th May 2017 (revised 27.7.2017; 4.8.17)
Translated from the original – 裴迪: 送崔九

1   歸山深淺去
2   須盡邱
3   莫學武陵人
4   暫遊桃源裏


*Form, Meter and Rhyme:  The original is a 5-character quatrain.  This English rendition is in hexameter (6 beats or feet) while the original is in 5-syllable lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.

*Title:  崔九 “Cui Jiu” or “Cui the Ninth” in the title refers not to the Cui Jiu in 杜甫 Du Fu’s poem 江南逢李龜年 “Meeting Li Guiniang in Jiangnan” whose name is 崔滌 Cui Di, but to another Cui Jiu who was 王維 Wang Wei’s brother-in-law (wife’s younger brother) named 崔興宗 Cui Xingzong.  Wang Wei and Cui Xingzong and the poet of this poem Pei Di were very close friends indeed.

*Line 1:  The term  (return) (mountain) refers to retirement or resignation from public service and is translated here literally as “back to the hills”.  I had originally translated (deep or far) (shallow or near) literally as "far or near", but have now (16.8.17) decided to reverse the order in favour of the word "far" to  end the line, thus, “near or far”.  (go) is rendered as “going”, hence, my “Back to the hills you’re going”.  To this and before “near or far”, I have added “no matter” (after considering “be it” and “whether”) to make sense of the line.

*Line 2:  (should or must) (to fully do) is rendered as “Be ever filled with … of every …”  邱壑 and are translated literally as “mound and dale” and “the beauty”.

*Line 3:  I have rendered (not to) (learn, repeat, follow, copy or imitate) as “Follow not the folly” (with “folly” added) after considering an alternative rendition of “Pray that you never follow” (without adding “folly”), and have decided for the version with the additions which, in my view, best conveys the sense.   武陵人 (Wuling, man) is rendered as “that fickle Wuling fellow” with “fellow” to translate “man” and with “fickle” added   The addition of “fickle” here and “folly” earlier on is for both the sense and the  sound of the line.  The line now reads: “Follow not the folly of that fickle Wuling fellow, who”.  Note added (5.8.17): I have now decided to revert to the version which I had originally considered, slightly changed to read: "Pray that never you follow that fickle Wuling fellow who".  This is because I find my alliteration of 4 "f's" a bit too tiring; and since I am reluctant to let go of either "follow" or "fellow" and since neither "folly" nor "fickle" is in the original, one of them can be dropped, and I have decided to drop "folly".  Frankly, unlike saying "follow that fellow", I had never been too comfortable with having to say "follow the folly".  I am happy that my discomfort has disappeared.  End of added note.  武陵人 is an allusion to 陶淵明 Tao Yuanming’s story of a fisherman from Wuling who discovered a paradise on earth but left for home after just a few days, which story is entitled 桃花源記 “The Peach Blossom Source”.  The allusion runs on in the poem to 桃源, which I have rendered as "Peach Blossoming Vale", in line 4.

*Line 4:  (temporary or brief) (visit, tour or stay) is rendered as “(line 3) … who /Alas, but briefly stayed” (after considering “who /Alas, just briefly stayed”, “whose /Stay was, alas, but brief” and “whose /Stay was, alas, a brief one”) with the word “Alas” added to strengthen the “not to copy or follow” advice/admonition of line 3.   (peach) (source) (in) is rendered rather literally as “in the Peach Blossoming Vale” with (a) taken to mean 棑花 and rendered as “Peach Blossom” turned into “Peach Blossoming” for the one additional unstressed syllable “-ing” required before “Vale”, and (b) taken to refer to the place where the source (or spring) is and covers, and not the source (or spring) itself, hence, rendered as “Vale” and which completes the rhyme


03 July 2017

西鄙人 Xi Bi Ren (Western Frontiersman): 哥舒歌 Song of Geshu

Below is a folk rhyme of the Tang dynasty which I have recently translated into English.  Though anonymous, it is collected in the famed anthology of "300 Tang Poems"; and mind you, there are over 50,000 Tang poems extant.  You will wish to note (a) the beauty of the original's 高刀洮 (gao-dao-tao, rendered as sight-night-might) rhyme, (b) the brilliance of the imagery of the Dipper as Geshu's Sword, and (c) the sheer simplicity of the poem.

Here we go:- 

Xi Bi Ren (Western Frontiersman) (?Tang Dynasty): Song of Geshu

1   The seven starred Big Dipper, due north up high in sight:
2   ‘Tis the sword of General Geshu, in vigilance all night.
3   To date, them herders on horseback, espy yet do not dare
4   To cross our Lintao border, in awe of Geshu Han’s might.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者: 黃宏發
27th May 2017 (revised 28.5.17; 31.5.17; 1.6.17; 6.6.17; 7.6.17; 8.6.17)
Translated from the original – 西鄙人: 哥舒歌

1   北斗七星高
2   哥舒夜帶刀
3   至今窺牧馬
4   不敢過臨洮


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a 5-character quatrain.  This English rendition is in hexameter (6 beats or feet) while the original is in 5-syllable lines.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.

*Author and Title:  On the face of it, the poem was written by some poet who wished to be anonymous so named himself 西鄙人 Xi Bi Ren (Western Frontiersman).  More likely, it was a folk rhyme among the people of the western frontier of Tang dynasty China, polished by one and many in the process of circulation.  Author being untraceable, it was attributed to “Western Frontiersman”, whether as one such person or as such persons collectively.  “Geshu” in the title and line 2 (and also line 4 in my English rendition) refers to a Tang dynasty general surname “Geshu” 哥舒 (name “Han” ) in the High Tang 盛唐 period (the period of Li Bai, Du Fu and Wang Wei) who was victorious against a Tubo 吐蕃 (Tibetan) incursion.  This poem is about the peace that ensued.

*Line 1:  北斗七星 (north, dipper, seven stars) is an asterism in the constellation Ursa Major 大熊座in the northern sky.  It consists of seven bright stars in the shape of a dipper or scoop or ladle or plough or wain, with four stars defining the scoop or bowl or body, and three stars, the handle or head.  In English, it is known as the Wain or Plough or Big Dipper or just Dipper (beware, there exist another asterism of seven stars with the same shape in the constellation Ursa Minor 小熊座 also in the northern sky).  北斗七星 is here rendered as “The seven starred Big Dipper”, Dipper being a literal translation of which Wain and Plough cannot claim, and Big Dipper being the proper name of the said asterism.  I have been able to retain the idea of the northern sky in 北斗 by adding “due north” after “Big Dipper”.  is rendered as “up high in sight” with “in sight” added to create a scheme of “-ight” end rhymes.  This is superior to “shines high and bright” I originally penned as the addition of “bright” is quite artificial while “in sight” (= all can see) is implied in the original.

*Line 2:  I have not taken夜帶刀 literally as “(at) night carries (his) sword”, but as “vigilant at night”.  Further, the whole line should not be understood as a statement that “Geshu is vigilant at night” but should be read as a continuation of line 1 saying these 7 northern stars, shaped like a sword (or dipper, scoop, ladle, plough, wain), represent “the sword of Geshu (a metonymy for Geshu himself) keeping vigilance at night”.  The line is, therefore, rendered as “’Tis the sword of General Geshu, in vigilance all night”, with “all night” used rather than the proper “at night” as the stars are there all night.

*Line 3:  至今 (until, now) is rendered as “To date”.  For the word (see or peep or eye or espy or spy), the problem lies in whether “… 窺牧馬 (in line 3) and 不敢過 (in line 4)” should be interpreted as (a) “(= 看見)牧馬()不敢過”, in English, “we see their horses dare not cross” or (b) “牧馬窺(= 窺看)()不敢過”, in English, “their horses just spy and dare not cross”.  I prefer the latter for the following reasons.  First, the inversion of the order of 牧馬窺 as 窺牧馬 in the original is meant to move 牧馬 closer to不敢過.  Second, the choice of the word is indicative of the sense of eyeing-spying, not just seeing for which will suffice.  Third, when placed before 牧馬, can be regarded as the adjectival “spying” qualifying their horses and their men.  On the term 牧馬 (herd, horse), it is a metonymy in the original, using “horses being herded” and/or “horses used for herding” to represent the men on horses herding cattle (and even horses).  It therefore refers to the men and not the horses.  I had hoped to retain the metonymy in my rendition, but after considering “herdsmen’s horses”, “tribesmen’s horses”, “nomads’ horses”, “nomadic horses”, I dropped the idea and decided to render it as “herders on horseback”.  It may be of interest to note the famed translator 許渊冲 Xu Yuan Zhong has been able to retain the metonymy in his translation of 胡馬 “Tartars’/Jurchens’ 女真 horses/steeds” in 姜夔 Jiang Kui 揚州慢 自胡馬窺江去後” as “Since northern shore was overrun by Jurchen steeds”, but this is a different story, in a very different context.  (Just mark the word there features the transferred meaning of “overrun” and “ransacked”.)  The line is now rendered as “To date, them herders on horseback, espy yet do not dare” with “espy” to translate and with 不敢 in the original line 4 moved up to line 3 in the English rendition as “do not dare”.  I have also added “them” to “herders” to contrast with “our … border” to be added in line 4.  (Please see note below.)

*Line 4:  不敢 is rendered as “do not dare” and moved up to line3.  臨洮 is the name of a place in present day Kansu 甘肅 Province (between Tibet to the south and Inner Mongolia to the north) so named for being “on/by ” “the River Tao ” which is a tributary of the Yellow River 黃河.  (A note on pronunciation: in洮水(the river in Kansu) and 臨洮 is pronounced “tao” while the same word in 洮湖 (a lake in present Jiangsu 江蘇 Province) is pronounced “yao”.)  過臨洮 is rendered as “to cross our Lintao border” with the words “our” and “border” added to make clear the nature and significance of the said place.  I have further added “in awe of Geshu Han’s might” to reiterate they “do not dare” and explain why so, which is the sense of the poem.  The addition of “might” completes the rhyme. 

02 June 2017

劉長卿 Liu Changqing: (聽)彈琴 (Hearing the) Zither Played in Tune

Today, I am posting my rendition of Liu Changqing's beautiful little poem "Zither Played in Tune".  You may wish to note that my rendition approximates the original in a number of ways:-

(a) 5 beats per line to render the 5-character lines of the original;

(b) end rhymes of "Pines" and "lines" to emulate the original's 寒 and 彈 in lines 2 and 4;

(c) a caesura between the 2-beat and 3-beat half lines to represent the pause between the 2nd and 3rd characters in the original;

(d) the order of words/phrases follow, by and large, the order of the characters/phrases of the original; and

(e) the use of onomatopoeia (ling'ring-o-ling'ring) to translate onomatopoeia (泠汵) in the original.

Here we go:-

Liu Changqing (714-790): (Hearing the) Zither Played in Tune

1   Ling'r-o-ling'ring, the seven-string zither chimes;
2   Silent, I hear: the bleak notes of Windswept Pines.
3   This tune of old, although myself I love, yet
4   Folks of the day, now rarely play these lines.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者: 黄宏發
16th May 2017 (revised 18.5.17; 19.5.17; 22.5.17; 23.5.17; 25.5.17)
Translated from the original - 劉長卿: ()彈琴

1   泠泠七弦上
2   靜聽松風寒
3   古調雖自愛
4   今人多不彈


*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a 5-character quatrain.  This English rendition is in pentameter (5 beats or feet) while the original is in 5-syllable lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original. 

*Line 1:  泠泠 (not 冷冷 meaning “cold”) is onomatopoeic of the sound of running creek water transferred to imitate the sound of the zither.  It is pronounced “ling-ling” in both Putonghua and Cantonese, and is rendered here, also in onomatopoeia, as “ling'ring-o-ling'ring" (after having first penned it as "tingling-o-tingling" over “tinkling-o-tinkling”) for being closer to the "ling" sound and devoid of merry-making connotations.  七弦 (seven, string) refers to the 七弦琴, a musical instrument with 7 strings called the ‘qin’ similar to the zither, and is rendered as “the seven-string zither”.  Although when pronounced in the “falling tone” 去聲(二十三漾韻) to mean “on top of” (e.g. 山上 “on the hill” and 書上 “in the book”) can be translated into English as the preposition “on” or “in” and the line, hence, rendered as “On/In the tinkling of the seven-string zither”, I have adopted a much more active interpretation of the word and pronounce it in the “rising tone” 上聲(二十二養韻) to mean “to ascend” or related verbs (which verb depends on the context, e.g. 上山 “go up a hill”, 上書 “submit a letter”, 上火車 “board a train”, 上塲 “come/go on stage”, or just “go fight”).  is, therefore, rendered as “chimes”, after considering “arises”, “rises”, “rising”, “chiming”, “in play”, “in tune” and “played in tune”.

*Line 2:  靜聽 (silent, hear) is rendered as “Silent, I hear” to mean “I keep silent to hear” which is what the original says.  松風 (pine, wind) refers to the title of the music score 風入松 (wind, enter, pine) and is rendered capitalized as “Windswept Pines” after considering “Wind Through Pines” and “Wind Into Pines”.  (cold) describes the nature of the tune and is, therefore, rendered as “the bleak notes of” with “notes” added to make clear the music is cold and bleak, and not the wind, nor the pines.

*Line 3:  古調 (old, tune) is understood in the singular as the one tune referred to in line 2 and is rendered “this tune of old”.  雖自愛 (although, self, love) is rendered as “although myself I love”.  I have added “yet” to end the line to provide an enjambment to lead to line 4.

*Line 4:  I had originally penned line 4 as “Yet few folks still play it, these fickle modern times” which I truly love but which I have to discard for 2 reasons.  First, the addition of the word “fickle”, which is not in the original, has added too much into the poet’s plain statement of  “nowadays”.  Second, and more important, (many) in 今人多不彈 should be properly understood as “people often” 人多, not as “many people” 多人, hence, “nowadays, people often don’t play it” and not “nowadays, many people don’t play it”.  If conversely formulated as (few) as if the line were written as 如今人少彈, it should be properly understood as “people rarely” 人少, not “few people” 少人, hence, “nowadays, people rarely play it” and not “nowadays, few people play it”.  The line should, therefore, be properly translated as “Folks of the day, not often play these lines” or, better, “Folks of the day, now rarely play these lines” which I have decided for..

*Line 3 and 4:  In the original, these 2 lines are in parallel as an unrhymed couplet, with 古調 perfectly parallel to 今人, and 雖自愛 in less than perfect parallel to 多不彈.  Having abandoned my original rendition of line 4, I am now in a position to render these lines as parallels in English.  We now have “This tune of old” in perfect parallel to “Folks of the day”, and “although myself I love” in less than perfect parallel to “now rarely play these lines”. 

02 May 2017

王梵志 Wang Fanzhi: 無題/我有一方便 Untitled/Of prescription, I have a ready piece

As there appears to be a lot of interest in the poems of Wang Fanzhi on this blog, I am posting here one more quatrain by this lay Buddhist.  Here we go:-

Wang Fanzhi (592?-670?): Untitled/Of prescription, I have a ready piece

1    Of prescription, I have a ready piece,
2    It’s worth, a hundred rolls of fleece----
3    In fights, lie low as ever one should;
4    Till death, see no county-authorities.
Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa )    譯者::黃宏發
27 December 2016 (revised 4.1.2017; 5.1.17; 10.1.17)
Translated from the original

王梵志: 無題/我有一方便

1    我有一方便
2    價值百疋練
3    相打長伏弱
4    至死不入縣

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English rendition of the 5-character quatrain is in tetrameter (4 beats or feet.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original. 
*Line 1:  一方便 is rendered as “Of prescription … a ready piece” (a ready piece of prescription) after considering “remedy”.
*Line 2:  百疋 is rendered as “a hundred rolls” after considering “bolts” and “lengths”.  (which is a plain white  “silk” or “cloth” fabric) is loosely rendered as “fleece” (which is woolen) for the rhyme.  This I consider acceptable as the point here is the “worth” which is clearly made in “a hundred rolls” which is a lot for the poor, whatever the material.
*Line 3:  相打 is rendered as “In fights” ( “each other” is not translated as it takes at least 2 to fight) after considering “quarrels” and “conflicts”.  伏弱 is rendered as “lie low” after considering “stay weak” and “stay low”.  (long or always) is rendered as “as ever one should” after considering “always”.

*Line 4:  I had considered rendering 至死 as “In life (till death = during life)” but have decided to stick to the literal “Till death”.  (county) refers to the county government, its physical office and its officials, or “the authorities”, and not literally the county.  Hence, (not)(enter)(county) does not mean “not to enter the county” but means “have nothing to do with the county authorities”, i.e. “not to deal with nor to be dealt with by the county authorities”.  I had originally considered rendering as “county police”, but found it inadequate.  I then considered “county office” and “county authorities” and found both adequate, but have chosen “county authorities” which is superior in sense despite its extra, supernumerary beat in the word “authorities”.  For (not)(enter), I had considered “deal not with”, “see not”, “meet not”, “go not to”, “stay away from”, “steer clear of” and have decided for “see no” over “meet no”.  The line, therefore, now reads: “Till death, see no county-authorities” which completes the “piece(1), fleece(2), and -ties(4)” rhyme.  I suggest reading “-ties” unstressed (to keep to a 4-beat line) and have, therefore, hyphenated “county-authorities” to make it easier to be read as 2 dactyls, thus: DUM-da-da-DUM-da-da.