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.