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

*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.