02 November 2009

王維 Wang Wei: 九月九日憶山東兄弟 Thinking of My Brothers...on the 9th Day of the 9th Moon

This year, the Chongyang 重陽 festival (the 9th day of the 9th moon) fell on last Monday, 26 October 2009. I am posting my translation of this very famous poem by Wang Wei to celebrate the festival:-

Wang Wei (701-761): Thinking of My Brothers East of the Mountains on the Ninth Day of the Ninth Moon

1  All alone in a strange land, a lonely stranger am I;
2  Thoughts of my kindred redouble on every festive day.
3  From afar I know, O brothers, where in the hills we’d be,
4  Each wearing a spray of dogwood, all but the one away.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黃宏發
11th May 2009 (revised 12.5.09; 13.5.09; 21.5.09; 2.11.09)
Translated from the original - 王維: 九月九日憶山東兄弟

1  獨在異鄉為異客
2  每逢佳節倍思親
3  遙知兄弟登高處
4  遍插茱萸少一人

Notes:
* This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.
* Title and lines 3 and 4: 山東 here refers generally to the land east of 華山 Huashan, being where Wang Wei’s ancestral home was (in present day 山西 Shanxi, not 山東 Shandong province). The ninth day of the ninth moon (lunar month) is the Chinese festival of Chongyang 重陽 or Chongjiu重九 (Double Ninth) when traditionally the whole family would go up to the hills to celebrate, wearing in the hair a spray of dogwood or around the arm a pouch of the same, and imbibing ale or wine scented with chrysanthemum. A “spray” is a twig or sprig with leaves and all, which in this case are the fruits (dogberries) that ripen in autumn.
* Line 1: The word “land” should be read unstressed.
* Line 2: I had considered “kin”, “kinsmen”, “kinsfolk”, “kinfolk”, “brethren” and “brothers”, but have now decided for “kindred”. I had originally used the word “come” which should be read unstressed, but have now decided for “on”.
* Line 3: I have decided to use “where in the hills we’d be” instead of ‘you’d be” or “they’d be” in order to heighten the poet’s longing to be with his brothers.
* Line 4: I had used “decked with a spray” but have now decided for “wearing a spray” as explained in the general note. The word “Each” should be read unstressed.