04 December 2008

李白 Li Bai: 夜思 Night Thoughts

POSTSCRIPT 3 (10.11.2017):  Thanks to my friend John Lau who recently urged me to reconsider my interpretation of as "well railings", hence, "well".  I have now decided to revert to my original "bed" interpretation and return to my original, more literal rendition, albeit slightly polished.  My reasons will be given in my notes yet to be revised.  The revised rendition is as follows:-

Li Bai (701-762): Night Thoughts

1  Before my bed, the moon shines bright;
2  Be it frost aground? I suppose it might.
3  I lift my head, the moon to behold, then
4  Lower it, musing: I'm homesick tonight.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者: 黃宏發
27th November 2008 (revised 28.11.08; 4.12 08; 5.12.08; 8.12.08; 10.11.2017)


POSTSCRIPT 2 (8.12.2008):  I have further revised my new translation of Li Bai's Night Thoughts. The poem now reads-

Li Bai (701-762): Night Thoughts

1  Before the well, the moonlight so bright,
2  Be it frost aground?  I suppose it might.
3  I raise my eyes towards the silvery moon, then
4  Lower them, musing: I'm homesick tonight.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者:黃宏發
27th November 2008 (revised 28.11.08; 4.12.08; 5.12.08; 8.12.08)

Notes:-
* Line 1: The word 床 should mean “railings of the well”, not “bed”, as in line 4 of another poem also by Li Bai, i.e. “遶床弄青梅” or “Round and round the well we pelted each other with green plums” in 長干行 Ballad of Changgan, translated by Innes Herdan, p. 108 of her three Hundred Tang Poems, Taipei: Far East, 1973, 2000. In that context, only “well” makes sense. Even here, “well” makes better sense as one’s bedside rarely gets frosted. But I have to say that to bow to the popular “bedside” interpretation is understandable. “Before my bed” is, therefore, also acceptable. 
* Line 2: The first “it” can be deleted from between “Be” and “frost” but I prefer its retention. I had considered “guess” but have decided for “suppose”.
* Line 3: I have chosen to translate 頭 “head” as “eyes” to make it possible for me to compress the pentameter (5 feet) “I raise my head to eye the silvery moon, then” which is what the original poem says, into a tetrameter (4 feet) “I lift my eyes towards the silvery moon, then”
* Line 4: I had used “brooding” which is on the dark side, but have now decided for “musing” which is natural, neutral and ambiguous.

POSTSCRIPT I (5.12.2008):  I now have second thoughts on this new translation and have revised lines 2, 3 and 4. The poem now reads:-

1  Before my bed, the moonlight so bright,
2  Be it frost aground, I suppose it might.
3  I raise my head, the moon for to behold, then
4  Lower it, brooding -- I'm homesick tonight.

Sorry, I have now deleted the word "for" in line 3 which now reads: "I raise my head the moon to behold, then".

ORIGINAL POST (4.12.2008)

The following is probably the most popular Chinese quatrain. It is by Li Bai (or Li Po) of the Tang dynasty. The title is "Night Thoughts" or "Thoughts at Night". My first attempt was in June last year which I found unsatisfactory. This is my second attempt (the first attempt is in the notes).

Li Bai (701--762): Night Thoughts

1  Before my bed, the moonlight so bright,
2  Be frost on the ground, I suppose it might.
3  I raise my head and the moon I behold, then
4  I lower it, brooding: I’m homesick tonight.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
27th November 2008 (revised 28.11.08)
Translated from the original - 李白: (靜)夜思

1  床前明(看)月光
2  疑是地上霜
3  舉頭望明(山)月
4  低頭思故鄉

Notes:-

* The original poem is in 5-character lines. This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 metrical feet). The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original. Below is an older translation of mine penned last year in June and revised in December. It is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) and features two couplets (rhyme scheme AABB):-

Li Bai (701--762): Thoughts in the Still of the Night

1 So luminous is the moonlight on the floor before my bed,
2 And so white that, apparently, the ground is frosted instead.
3 I raise my head to gaze at the moon, o’er the hilltop, so bright;
4 I drop it in thoughts of my homeland, in the still of the night, tonight.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
6 June 2007 (revised 9.6.07; 3.12.07; 5.12.07)

* Title and lines 3 and 4 of the old translation: Popularly entitled 夜思, but older versions entitle it 靜夜思, with the additional character 靜 (still, quiet, silent, etc.), hence, the old title “Thoughts in the Still of the night” and the addition of “in the still of the night, tonight” to line 4 of the old translation. Older versions of the poem feature 山月(hill + moon) instead of 明月(bright moon). The old translation of line 3 covers both meanings.

* Line 2: The word “it” appeared twice in draft. I have now deleted the “it” between “Be” and“frost”. I had considered “guess” but have decided for “suppose”.

* Line 4: I had considered “musing” but have decided for “brooding”.


20 November 2008

賀知章 He Zhizhang: 詠柳 An Ode to the Willow

Below is my latest translation, a quatrain by an early Tang poet He Zhizhang.

He Zhizhang (659-744): An Ode to the Willow

1  Up to your crown, O willow, dressed in the green of jades,
2  Myriads of twigs so verdant, droop like your silken braids.
3  Who knows who the tailor is, who’s cut your leaves so fine? It’s
4  The vernal winds past February, sharp as the scissors’ blades.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黄宏發
20th November 2008
Translated from the original - 賀知章: 詠柳

1  碧玉妝成一樹高
2  萬條垂下綠絲縧
3  不知細葉誰裁出
4  二月春風似剪刀

Notes:-
* The original is in 7-character lines. This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet). The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.
* Line 1: I take 一樹高 to mean “to the top of the tree” or “the whole tree” and not “a tall tree”, hence, the phrase “Up to your crown”, “crown” means “head”.
* Line 2: I had considered “hair in braids” but have decided for “silken braids”.
* Line 3: I had considered “master” but have decided for “tailor”.
* Line 4: I have used “past February” as 二月 the second lunar month approximates the solar month of March.

15 October 2008

李商隱 Li Shangyin: 登樂遊原 Ascending the Pleasurable Plateau

Below is my latest translation which is my first attempt at a poem by Li Shangyin of the late Tang Dynasty. I hope you will enjoy it.

Li Shangyin (813-858): Ascending the Pleasurable Plateau

1 It’s late in the day, my heart’s not well at ease;
2 To the ancient plateau, up, in a carriage I go.
3 (Sublime is the beauty of the sun while yet unset,)
   Sublime is the time while the sun is yet to set; (revised 30.10.17) 
4 Too soon, alas, is dusky darkness to follow.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
9th October 2008 (revised 10.10.08; 13.10.08; 15.10.08; 30.10.17)
Translated from the original - 李商隱: 登樂遊原

1 向晚意不適
2 驅車登古原
3 夕陽無限好
4 只是近黃昏

Notes:
* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme is XAXA which I surmise the original to be. I am grateful to Gabriel C.M. Yu 余志明 for pointing out to me that in the 文淵閣四庫全書電子版 明楊慎撰 古音獵要卷二: “昏 音玄…”. It should also be noted that “go” and “follow” here is an unstressed (feminine) rhyme.
* Line 1: I had considered “my mind is ill at ease”, but have decided for “my heart’s not well at ease”.
* Line 2: I had considered “plateau of old” and “by carriage”, but have decided for “ancient plateau” and “in a carriage”.
* Line 3: I had considered “boundless” versus “sublime” versus “infinite”, and “beauty” versus “splendour”, and have decided for “sublime is the beauty”. I had also considered “ere it sets”, “before it sets”, “about to set”, “soon to set” and “as yet unset”, but have decided for “while yet unset”.
* Line 4: I had considered “dusk and darkness”, “dusk then darkness” and “dusky evening”, but have decided for “dusky darkness”, an unusual expression coined to remind us that “dusk” is “the darker stage of twilight at night or in the morning” (Shorter Oxford Dictionary) which, in this context, leads on to dark night. For the expression 黃昏 which means evening, not dawn, I have chosen to use 昏=dark only, and not 黃=yellow. A superb alternative, albeit at the expense of the alliteration in “dusky darkness”, is “dusky evening”.

18 September 2008

李白 Li Bai: 贈汪倫 To Wang Lun

Below is my rendition of Li Bai's "To Wang Lun" which is a beautiful friendship poem. You will notice that I have discarded the original rendition which was in couplets inconsistent with Tang poetry.

Li Bai (701—762): To Wang Lun

1  A boat I have boarded, Li Bai am I, and I’m all set to go,
2  When suddenly from on shore a din I hear, of stomping and singing I know.
3  The water in the Pool of Peach Blossoms is as deep as a thousand feet,
4  Deep not as the parting sentiments, to me, Wang Lun, you show.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)         譯者: 黃宏發
26 May 2007 (revised 27.5.07; 5.12.07; 13.12.07; 22.2.08)
Translated from the original - 李白: 贈汪倫

1  李白乘舟將欲行
2  忽聞岸上踏歌聲
3  桃花潭水深千尺
4  不及汪倫送我情

Notes:-
* This English rendition is in heptameter (7 metrical feet) to emulate the original 7-character lines. When reading it, I suggest accenting both “all” and set” in line 1 and “Deep” and “not” in line 4. The rhyme scheme is AAXA, more demanding than the original XAXA.
* Line 2: I am prepared to have “stomping and singing” replaced by “tapping and singing” if it can be said that the Chinese people in Tang dynasty, or at least Wang Lun, tap-danced. An alternative is “a dancing songster”, but I am satisfied with “stomping and singing”.
* Line 4: An alternative which I first penned on 26.5.07 is “Deep not as Wang Lun’s affection, your fond/warm adieu I meet”, but it turns the rhyme scheme into AABB which sounds great, but I prefer AAXA as classical Chinese quatrains (4-line verses) follow either AAXA or XAXA with a more or less mandatory "change" in the 3rd line.

29 August 2008

杜甫 Du Fu: 絕句 2首 其2 (4- 何日是歸年) Quatrain, 2 of 2 (4- What year be the day I return...)

Sorry for the late posting. Here is one by Du Fu, the second of his Two Quatrains usually known by the first line "In streams so aqua, the whiter the birds appear", but I find the last line "What year be the day I return to whence I came" so much more appealing.

Du Fu (712-770): Quatrain, 2 of 2 (4- What year be the day I return ...)

1 In streams so aqua, the whiter the birds appear,
2 On hills so green, red flowers bloom as in flame.
3 This spring, it seems, is again soon to pass,
4 What year be the day I return to whence I came?

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
13 June 2008 (revised 16.6.09; 18.6.08)
Translated from the original - 杜甫: 絕句 2首 其2 (4- 何日是歸年)

1 江碧鳥逾白
2 山青花欲然
3 今春看又過
4 何日是歸年

Notes:

* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines and the rhyme scheme is XAXA as is in the original.

* Line 2: The Chinese character 然 here means 燃 with a 火=fire to the left meaning “burn” or "flame". I have chosen "flame" as it conveys more vividly the colour contrast of “the-bluer-the-whiter, the-greener-the-redder” through association with the red flame-flower, the red flowers of the flame azalea and trees called the flame of the forest. In a way, the word “red” in the line is superfluous. It is included for clarity and it does not affect the pentameter as, by convention, “red” here should be read unaccented.

* Line 3: I had originally used “set” instead of “soon”. I have, however, interpreted the line to mean “今年的春天,看來,又[快要]過去了” as in the school children's rhyme “春天不是讀書天/夏日炎炎正好眠/等到秋來冬又(=快要)至(=到來))/還是收拾書包好過年”, hence, “is again soon to pass” to include both “again” and “soon” with the word “is” subtly suggesting the inevitability of spring passing.

* Line 4: The expression “whence I came” (which is grammatically correct) can be changed, without affecting the meter, to “from whence I came”. According to Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary, “the idiom ‘from whence’ is old in the language, well established and standard’ and used by many including ‘the King James Bible, Shakespeare, Dryden, and Dickens.” I dropped the word “from” for the simple reason that, with it, the line looks too long.

23 July 2008

柳宗元 Liu Zongyuan: 江雪 River-Snow

The following is my rendition of another very famous poem of the Tang Dynasty, River-Snow by Liu Zongyuan. I hope you will enjoy it.

Liu Zongyuan (773-819): River-Snow

1  In the thousand hills and hillocks, birds are not in flight,
2  On myriads of paths and pathways, no trace of men in sight.
3  Yet in a lone-boat, a fisher-folk, in broad-hat and straw-cloak sits
4  And, all alone, he angles, the river-snow, its iciness, despite.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  譯者: 黃宏發
15 June 2008 (revised 16.6.08; 19.6.08; 21.6.08; 19.7.08)
Translated from the original - 柳宗元:  江雪

1  千山鳥飛絕
2  萬徑人蹤滅
3  孤舟簑笠翁
4  獨釣寒江雪

Notes:
* The rhyme scheme of this English rendition is AAXA which I believe the original to be. I have been unable to render the poem in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines. So, hexameter (6 metrical feet) it is.
* Lines 1 and 2: The redundant words of “and hillocks” and “and pathways” are added to convey the sense of “many-and-all hills and paths” and, of course, to complete the hexameter.
* Lines 3 and 4: The words of “Yet”, “sits” and “despite” are not in the original, but their meaning can reasonably be implied.

25 June 2008

張繼 Zhang Ji: 楓橋夜泊 Moored for the Night by the Maple Bridge

Below is my rendition of a very famous Chinese poem of the Tang Dynasty in heptameter (7 metrical feet) and rhymed AAXA.

Zhang Ji (mid 700's): Moored for the Night by the Maple Bridge

1  The moon is down, crows caw, a frostiness fills the sky;
2  By the riverside maples and fishing lights, sad, insomnious, I lie.
3  Beyond the walls of Gusu City, where Hanshan Monastery stands,
4  Bong, goes the bell at midnight to touch the boat of the passerby.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
5 June 2008 (last revised 18.6.08)
Translated from the original - 張繼: 楓橋夜泊

1  月落烏啼霜滿天
2  江楓漁火對愁眠
3  姑蘇城外寒山寺
4  夜半鐘聲到客船

Notes:
*Zhang Ji was not a major poet of the period, but this poem has always been extremely popular and is represented in numerous paintings. This English rendition is in heptameter (7 metrical feet) to emulate the original 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AAXA as in the original.
*Line 3: "Gusu" is present day Suzhou 蘇州. "Hanshan" is literally Cold Mountain 寒 山. It is also the name of a famous Buddhist monk, but the claim that the monastery was named after the monk who lived in the late 700's to early 800's remains dubious.
*Line 4: I had considered replacing "goes" by "tolls" but decided not to as it might produce an audio(-visual) effect of Western church bell tolling and ringing. "Bong" is the correct sound of the single Buddhist monastery bell hit by the end of a large wooden pole. The word "touch" is chosen for its ambiguity. It was originally "reach" which is the literal meaning. I had also considered using "bless" (the sound of the bell must or would have quelled some of the sadness.) But there is already an abundance of the "b" alliteration of "bong", "bell" and "boat" in the line and of "By" and "Beyond" in the previous lines.

29 May 2008

杜秋娘 Du Qiuniang: 金縷衣 Robe Embroidered in Gold

The following is a most recent translation of mine. It is the only poem by a woman poet (poetess) of the Tang Dynasty included in the anthology "300 Poems of the Tang Dynasty". From the fact that Du Mu (803-852) wrote a poem to Du Qiuniang, she must have lived in the early 800's.

Du Qiuniang: Robe Embroidered in Gold

1  Cherish not, I pray, your robe embroidered in gold;
2  Cherish, I pray, relish - the days before you're old.
3  Flowers fit for plucking, you pluck while still in bloom,
4  Lest you pluck but twigs denuded, bald, bare and cold.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
21 May 2008.
Translated from the original - 杜秋娘: 金縷衣

1  勸君莫惜金縷衣
2  勸君惜取少年時
3  花開堪折直須折
4  莫待無花空折枝

Notes:
*Lines 3 and 4: The word "you" can be deleted from line 3 and the words "you pluck" in line 4 can be replaced by "pluck'st" which sounds archaic but means the same.

24 April 2008

李白 Li Bai: 獨坐敬亭山 Sitting Alone at Mount Jingting

The following translation of the poem "Sitting Alone at Mount Jingting" by the Chinese poet Li Bai (701-762) was written on 26 November 2007, last revised on 5 December 2007:-

Li Bai (701-762):  Sitting Alone at Mount Jingting

1  Vanished are the birds upon soaring high,
2  Save a cloud solitary, floats freely by.
3  Tired not of reciprocating one another's gaze,
4  Thou, and thou only, Mount Jingting and I.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
26th November 2007 (revised 5.12.2007)
Translated from the original - 李白: 獨坐敬亭山

1  衆鳥高飛盡
2  孤雲獨去閒
3  相看兩不厭
4  只有敬亭山

Notes:-

*I am grateful to 施頴洲 for his "high(line 1)-by(line 2)-I(line 4)" rhyme in his translation of the same poem which he entitled "Li Po: Sitting Alone by Mount Ching-ting" on pp.66-67 of his "Tang and Song Poetry -- Chinese-English" 中英對照讀唐詩宋詞, 九歌出版社, 台北 Taipei, 2006.

*Line 3: I had originally translated the line as "Tired not of the company we two keep" but have decided to stick to the "gaze" formulation. I have used "one another's gaze" (which is grammatically correct despite popular belief) as "each other's gaze" sounds a bit harsh.

*Line 4: I have used the archaic "thou" instead of "you" faintly hinting at the "I-Thou" vis-a-vis the "I-It" relationship differntiated by Martin Buber in his book "I and Thou" hoping to truly personify Mount Jingting.

Now, back to my last (March 2008) post, I have now further revised my translation of "House in the Bamboo Grove" by Wang Wei (701-761) as follows:-

1  Alone I sit in the shade of the bamboo trees,
2  My strings I pluck, then long and loud I sing.
3  Deep in the forest, none knows I exist,
4  None but the moon, to me she comes a-shining.

Notes:-

*I am grateful to William P. Coleman who recently corresponded with me at length in his blog http://williampcoleman.wordpress.com on his and my versions of the poem. My use of "shade" instead of "bowers" in line 1 and "strings" instead of "zither" in line 2 owe much to his criticism.

Now, further back to my February 2008 post, I have now decided to revert to the onomatopoeiac word "pitter-patter" in line 3 of "A Morning in Spring" by Meng Haoran (689-740), thus:-

In spring I sleep unaware morning is here,
From near then far, trilling songbirds I hear.
In the night's pitter-pattering of winds and rains,
How many blossoms fallen? Not few, I fear!

Notes:-

* I am grateful to Lily Yam Kwan who urged me to reconsider "In the din of".

*Line 1: I have deleted the two commas in the line.

11 March 2008

王維 Wang Wei: 竹里館 House in the Bamboo Grove

I hope you will like my rendition of Wang Wei: House in the Bamboo Grove (王維: 竹里館) in an XAXA rhyming scheme as in the original Chinese:-

Wang Wei (701-761):  House in the Bamboo Grove

1    Alone I sit, in the bowers of the bamboo trees,
2    My zither I pluck, then, long and loud I sing.
3    Deep in the forest, none knows I exist,
4    None but the moonlight, to me, solace you bring.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
18 February 2008 (revised 7.3.2008)
Translated from the original - 王維:  竹里館

1    獨坐幽篁裡
2    彈琴復長嘯
3    深林人不知
4    明月來相照

I have revised Meng Haoran: A Morning in Spring (孟浩然: 春曉) in my February post as follows:

In spring, I sleep, unaware morning is here,
From near then far, trilling songbirds I hear.
In the din of the wind and rain all through the night,
How many blossoms fallen? Not few, I fear!

This follows an AAXA rhyming scheme as in the original Chinese.

The same goes for Li Bai: Downstream to Jiangling (李白: 下江陵) in my January post.

Postscript 24.4.2008):
Now, back to my last (March 2008) post, I have now further revised my translation of "House in the Bamboo Grove" by Wang Wei (701-761) as follows:-

Alone I sit in the shade of the bamboo trees,
My strings I pluck, then long and loud I sing.
Deep in the forest, none knows I exist,
None but the moon, to me she comes a-shining.

Notes:-
*I am grateful to William P. Coleman who recently corresponded with me at length in his blog http://williampcoleman.wordpress.com on his and my versions of the poem. My use of "shade" instead of "bowers" in line 1 and "strings" instead of "zither" in line 2 owe much to his criticism. 

20 February 2008

孟浩然 Meng Haoran: 春曉 A Morning in Spring

POSTSCRIPT 2 (24.9.2017):

Revisiting my 2008 rendition, I have decided to revise it as follows:-

Meng Haoran (689-740): A morning in Spring

1  In spring I sleep unaware morning is here;
2  From far and near, trilling songbirds I hear.
3  In the night's pitter patter of wind and rain,
4  How many flowers fallen? Not few, I fear.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  譯者: 黃宏發
12th February 2008 (revised 14.2.08; 18.2.08; 22.2.08; 24.4.08; 24.9.2017)

POSTSCRIPT 1 (24.4.2008):

Now, further back to my February 2008 post, I have now decided to revert to the onomatopoeiac word "pitter-patter" in line 3 of "A Morning in Spring" by Meng Haoran (689-740), thus:-

1  In spring I sleep unaware morning is here,
2  From near then far, trilling songbirds I hear.
3  In the night's pitter-pattering of winds and rains,
4  How many blossoms fallen? Not few, I fear!

Notes:-
* I am grateful to Lily Yam Kwan who urged me to reconsider "In the din of".
*Line 1: I have deleted the two commas in the line.

ORIGINAL POST (12.2.2008)

I have just finished translating Meng Haoran's "A Morning in Spring" and wish to share it with you the soonest. Here we go. I will post my other finished poems later.

Meng Haoran (689-740):  A Morning in Spring

1  In spring, I sleep, unaware morning is here,
2  From near then far, trilling songbirds I hear;
3  In the night's pitter-patter of winds and rains though mild,
4  How many fallen petals? Know not, I fear!

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
12 February 2008
Translated from the original - 孟浩然:  春曉

1  春眠不覺曉
2  處處聞啼鳥
3  夜來風雨聲
4  花落知多少

Notes:
Line 2: I had considered using "chirping", "cheeping" or "singing" but decided "trilling" is best. (12.2.2008)
Line 3: I had considered "In the din of the wind and rain all night last night," which means the night was stormy, but dicided to adopt the gentle spring showers interpretation of "In the night's pitter-patter of winds and rains so mild". (18.2.2008) I have now decided to use "though" instead of "so". The line now reads "In the night's pitter-patter of winds and rains though mild" and the poem above has been accordingly modified. (22.2.2008)
Line 4: I had originally ended the poem with "None knows! Oh dear!" but have now decided to end it with "Know not, I fear!". An alternative is "Not few, I fear!" which cleverly covers 少 but misses 知. (14.2.2008)
The poet's name should be Meng Haoran, not Meng Haoren. This is now rectified. (22.2.2008)

28 January 2008

李白 Li Bai: 下江陵/早發白帝城 Downstream to Jiangling/Early Start from Baidi City



P 2    POSTSCRIPT 4 (16.6.2011) Polishing line 4: I have revised "myriads of flanking mountains high and low" in line 4 to "a myriad cliff-tops o'erhanging high or low". My rendition now reads (Notes revised accordingly):-

Li Bai (701—762): Downstream to Jiangling/Early Departure from Baidi City

(At dawn I left Baidi yclad in clouds aglow,)
    At daybreak I left a Baidi enwrapped in clouds aglow; (revised 30.10.17)
(A thousand miles to Jiangling, takes but a day to go.)
    (A thousand miles to Jiangling, takes just a day to go. (revised 30.10.17)
3  In the endless cries of monkeys on banks both left and right,
4  I’ve skiffed past a myriad cliff-tops o'erhanging high or low.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者黃宏發  
23 January 2008 (revised 24.1.08; 2.7.08; 5.9.2008; 16.12.08; 18.2.09; 26.6.09; 10.6.11; 13.6.11; 15.6.11; 16.6.11; 30.10.17) 

POSTSCRIPT 3 (15.6.2011) Latest touching up:  I have now decided to use (a) "yclad" instead of "enwrapped" in line 1, (b) "takes but a day" instead of "takes only a day" in line 2, (c) "monkeys on banks" instead of "monkeys from banks" in line 3, and (d) "flanking mountains high and low" instead of "mountains flanking me high or low" in line 4. This latest version is as follows (the notes are accordingly revised):-

Li Bai (701—762): Downstream to Jiangling/Early Departure from Baidi City

1   At dawn I left Baidi enwrapped in clouds aglow,
2  A thousand miles to Jiangling, takes only a day to go.
3   In the endless cries of monkeys from banks both left and right,
4   I’ve skiffed past myriads of mountains flanking me high or low.  

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者黃宏發
23 January 2008 (revised 24.1.08; 2.7.08; 5.9.2008; 16.12.08; 18.2.09; 26.6.09; 10.6.11; 13.6.11) 


          POSTSCRIPT 2 (13.6.2011) Further revisions to Lines 3 and 4:  I now consider my original "row after row" or "row following row" formulation totally misguided as explained in my notes revised up to today (13.6.2011). My further revised version is as follows:- 

Li Bai (701—762): Downstream to Jiangling/Early Departure from Baidi City

1  At dawn I left Baidi yclad in clouds aglow,
2  A thousand miles to Jiangling, takes but a day to go.
3  In the endless cries of monkeys on banks both left and right,
4  I’ve skiffed past myriads of flanking mountains high and low
.
Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者黃宏發
23 January 2008 (revised 24.1.08; 2.7.08; 5.9.2008; 16.12.08; 18.2.09; 26.6.09; 10.6.11; 13.6.11; 15.6.11)

POSTSCRIPT 1 (10.6.2011) Latest revisions:  I have revised my rendition of this famous poem by 李白 Li Bai first posted here on 28.1.2008. There are two alternative titles to the poem. I have translated one 下江陵 as "Downstream to Jiangling" and the other 早發白帝城 as "Early Departure from Baidi City". I have also revised and expanded my notes which follow my translation. I do hope you will find this an improved version:-

Li Bai (701—762): Downstream to Jiangling/Early Departure from Baidi City

1   At dawn I left Baidi enwrapped in clouds aglow,
2   A thousand miles to Jiangling, takes only a day to go.
3   In the endless calls of monkeys coming from bank to bank,
4   I’ve skiffed past myriads of mountains row following row.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者黃宏發
23 January 2008 (revised 24.1.08; 2.7.08; 5.9.2008; 16.12.08; 18.2.09; 26.6.09; 10.6.11)

ORIGINAL POST (28.1.2008):

So far I have translated the following poems.  (Added 9.11.2013: As this was my very first post on my then newly created blog, I gave a brief progress of my work since mid 2007 by listing out, by poet, title and first line, some 11 poems I had translated.  The list is now deleted so as not to crowd the page.)

Here, I wish to share with you the full text of the first of my translated poems as follows:-

Li Bai: Downstream to Jiangling/Early Start from Baidi City

1  At daybreak I leave Baidi amidst clouds aglow,
2  A thousand miles to Jiangling is a mere day's flow.
3  Whilst monkeys cry incessantly from bank to bank,
4  I've skiffed past a myriad mountains row after row

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa).    譯者黃宏發
23 January 2008 (revised 24.1.08)
Translated from the original - 李白:下江陵/早發白帝城

1  朝辭白帝彩雲間
2  千里江陵一日還
3  兩岸猿聲啼不住
4  輕舟已過萬重山

[Please note I have not decided if the third line should read "In the unceasing cries of monkeys from bank to bank," and if "monkeys" should be replaced by "gibbons".]

Notes (revised and expanded up to 10.6.2011, further revised up to 13.6, then 15.6.2011 and 16.6.2011):-
* This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) whilst the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA (or AAXA) as in the original.
* Title and lines 1 and 2: I am grateful to 許淵冲 Xu Yuanzhong (XYZ) of Peking University who graciously met me on 3rd December 2008. On the question of proper names, he suggested to me that the Chinese place names should best be omitted. It seems he has taken the advice of my mentor John A. Turner (who taught me poetry in 1961-62) one step further (please see pp. xxxii-xxxiv of his “A Golden Treasury of Chinese Poetry”, Hong Kong: The Chinese Univ. of Hong Kong Press, 1989.) XYZ’s rendition which he entitled “Leaving the White Emperor Town at Dawn” can be found in his “Bilingual Edition 300 Tang Poems”, Beijing: Higher Education Press, 2000 p. 191. Notwithstanding my preference for the original place names, I can use “the castle/citadel/city” to replace “Baidi” (XYZ has used “White Emperor”) and “down the Gorges” or simply “downstream” to replace “Jiangling” (XYZ has used “through canyons”). I am afraid I find it impossible to do the same for the two titles of the poem.
* Line 1: I have now decided to use “dawn” instead of “daybreak” and have changed “leave” to “left” to make clear that dawn is past I had used “amidst clouds aglow”, then considered “yclad (meaning clothed) in clouds aglow”, “in a canopy of clouds aglow”, and decided for “enwrapped in clouds aglow”. I have now changed my mind in favour of "yclad".
* Line 2: Although the Chinese mile  “li” is about one third of a mile (according to the 1929 official standards) and the distance between Baidi and Jiangling is actually about 300 miles, yet I do love the hyperbole of “A thousand miles” and have no wish to be as precise as “Three hundred miles” or as loose as “Hundreds of miles”. I had penned “is a mere day’s flow”, then considered “is but a day’s flow” and “is just a day’s flow” and, alternatively, “takes but a day to go” and “takes just a day to go”, and have now decided for “takes only a day to go”. I have now changed my mind in favour of "takes but a day to go".
* Line 3: I had first penned the line as “Whilst monkeys cry incessantly from bank to bank”, considered “Whilst monkeys cry incessantly on banks left and right”, “In the unceasing cries of monkeys from banks left and right”, “In the endless din of monkeys calling from bank to bank”, “In the endless cries of monkeys calling from bank to bank” and “In the endless calls of monkeys coming from bank to bank”, and have now decided for "In the endless cries of monkeys on banks both left and right".
* Line 4: Although I had considered the word “sailed”, I decided for “skiffed” which sounds much speedier. The noun “skiff 輕舟, which I need to include, can according to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary be used as a verb. I had considered “skiffed through’ to replace “skiffed past” so as to make certain the syllable “past” (or “through” if chosen) is not read stressed, but have decided it unnecessary. I had first penned “row after row” to end the poem, then revised it to “row following row”, in order to complete the 6-foot meter and the "-ow" rhyme. I now consider "row after row" totally misguided as sailing downstream though the Three Gorges, one can only see two rows of mountains or cliffs or bluffs or escarpments flanking the river. I, therefore, decided to re-write the line. I considered "I've skiffed past myriads of mountains flanking me high or low", then "I've skiffed past myriads of cliffs o'erhanging high and low", then decided for "I've skiffed past myriads of flanking mountains high and low", but have now decided to re-write it as "I've skiffed past a myriad cliff-tops o'erhanging high or low".