10 December 2010

白居易 Bai Juyi: 夜雪 Night in Snow

Winter is approaching. Although it never snows in Hong Kong, those of us who had experienced snow may find this little poem of interest. The famed Tang dynasty poet Bai Juyi is also known by the name Po Chu-I.

Bai Juyi (772-846): Night in Snow

1  Surprised to find, so cold, my quilt and pillow;
2  (Then light I see from the papered casement window.)
    Then light I see through my papered casement window.  
    (revised 26.2.15)
3  (Deep in the night, so heavy it snows, I know, when)
    Deep in the night, so heavy's the snow, I know, when  
    (revised 26.2.15)
4  (Bamboos go crack ~ a sound, now ‘n then, I follow.)
    Bamboos go clack---a sound, then again, I follow.
    (revised 26.2.15)

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黃宏發
22nd July 2009 (revised 23.7.09; 24.7.09; 3.8.09; 4.8.09; 5.8.09; 10.12.10)
Translated from the original - 白居易: 夜雪

1  已訝衾枕冷
2  復見窗户明
3  夜深知雪重
4  時聞折竹聲

Notes:
* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AAXA as I take the original to be. The “pillow, window, follow” rhyme is but a falling para-rhyme
* Line 2: The word 復 here means 後 “then”, not 再 “again”. The word 户 “door” is omitted in the translation as it refers to the Chinese “casement door” which is also a window. The word “papered” is added to make clear it is not a glass casement window/door which did not yet exist.
* Line 3: I had originally penned “so heavy’s the snow” but have now decided for “so heavy it snows”.
* Line 4: For the sound of bamboos breaking, I had considered “snap” and “clack”, but have decided for “crack”. For the word 時, I had considered “e’er ‘n anon (ever and anon)”, “now ‘n again (now and again)”and “then ‘n again (then and again)”, but have decided for “now ‘n then (now and then)”
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05 November 2010

韋應物 Wei Yingwu: 秋夜寄邱員外 Written on an Autumn Night to Squire Qiu

It is now deep in autumn. Most ancient Chinese poets seem to miss their family and friends most in autumn. Wei Yingwu said in the 8th century: "On this crisp autumn night when pine-cones fall, I miss you and am thinking of you. You must still be up, thinking of me too." Though in the last the 20th and this the 21st century, poetry has been replaced by an "I miss you" card or an email "miss U" message, the sentiments remain the same. Why not borrow Wei's poetry?

Wei Yingwu (739-792): Written on an Autumn Night to Squire Qiu

1 My friend, O how I miss you, this autumn night!
2 I stroll, and a rhyme I roll -- of the clime now chilly,
3 Of the drop, dropping of pine-cones in the empty mountain,
4 And of you, my dear recluse, still up, willy-nilly.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黄宏發
23rd June 2009 (25.6.09; 26.6.09; 27.10.10; 5 11 10)
Translated from the original - 韋應物: 秋夜寄邱員外

1 懷君屬秋夜
2 散步詠涼天
3 空山松子落
4 幽人應未眠

Notes:
* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the 5-character lines of the original. The rhyme scheme is ABCB as in the original.
* Title: The addressee is a friend of the poet’s named Qiu Dan 邱丹 or Qiu Ershier 邱二十二 (probably means the 22nd son). Qiu was in retirement when Wei wrote the poem, and 員外 could either meant his former rank in officialdom 員外郎 or simply a country squire, and I have adopted the latter for the title.
* Lines 2, 3 and 4: I have repeated the word “of” in all 3 lines so as to treat everything in the 3 lines to be the content of the “rhyme (verse or poem)” rolling from the poet’s mouth while strolling. An alternative treatment, probably more faithful, is as follows:-
1 My friend, oh how I miss you, this autumn night!
2 I stroll, and a rhyme I roll of the air turned crispy.**
3 In the fall of pine-seeds, pine-cones in the empty hills,
4 I hope, my dear recluse, you’re still up, not sleepy.**
**The “crispy” (line 2) “not sleepy” (line 4) rhyme may not be perfect but is, I hope, acceptable as a para-rhyme or off rhyme.
* Line 2: I had considered “A rhyme I roll as I stroll”, then used “As I stroll, a rhyme I roll …” but have now decided for “I stroll, and a rhyme I roll …”.
* Line 3: I had originally written “Of the drop and plop of pine-cones …”, but have found the word “plop” (being a verb for dropping into water) less than satisfactory and have now decided for “Of the drop, dropping of pine-cones …”. I have translated 松子 not as “pine-seeds” but as a synecdoche for “pine-cones”. By repeating “drop” and by turning the second “drop” into the participle “dropping”, I hope to create the autumn sound of pine-cones falling.
* Line 4: I have used “still up” to translate 未眠. I am still considering whether or not “willy-nilly”, which I need for the rhyme, is a mistaken interpretation of or adds too much to 應 in the original.

15 October 2010

李白 Li Bai: 清平調 3首 其3 To the Qing and Ping Tune (for Lady Yang), 3 of 3

This is the 3rd and last of the 3 verses Li Bai wrote impromptu in honour of the peony flower and Lady 貴妃 Yang Yuhuan 楊玉環 following the 1st and 2nd posted here this year in June and August respectively. Here we go:-

Li Bai (701-762): To the Qing and Ping Tune (for Lady Yang), 3 of 3

1 Famed peony, fairest lady----in love requited, in bliss,
2 With the monarch’s eyes, all smiles, to find you, never miss.
3 North of the Agar Pavilion, by the railing together you lean,
4 Zephyr’s moods melancholic, to dispel, disperse, dismiss.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黄宏發
7th April 2010 (revised 8.4.10; 15.10.10)
Translated from the original - 李白: 清平調 3首 其3

1 名花傾國兩相歡
2 長得君王帶笑看
3 解釋春風無限恨
4 沈香亭北倚闌干

Notes:-

* This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original.

* Line 1: To follow from line 1 of the 2nd verse in this series of three, I have identified the “flower” 花 as “peony” 牡丹 or 芍藥 which is known as the flower of the rich and the noble 富貴花. 傾國 does not literally mean “ruins the country, nation, kingdom, or empire” but alludes to “a ravishingly beautiful lady”, hence, “fairest lady”. I have translated 兩相歡 as “(the beautiful lady , likened to the queen of all flowers, is) in love, requited (by the monarch, and are both) in bliss”, and not as “(the monarch) takes pleasure in both the famous flower and the beautiful lady”.

* Lines 3 and 4: I have reversed the order of lines 3 and 4.

* Line 3: “Agar”, short for “agarwood” or “aloeswood”, “eaglewood”, etc., is the incense produced in aquilaria trees. In the second half of the line, I have added “together” which is not in the original, so as to amplify my interpretation of “the monarch and the lady both in love, in bliss” in line 1 and “the monarch and the lady in constant companionship” in line 2.

* Line 4: 解釋 here means “to liberate from”, and does not mean “to explain”. This explains why I have not adopted 解識 which being the alternative version.


07 September 2010

馬致遠 Ma Zhiyuan: 天淨沙 秋思 Tian Jing Sha "Autumn Thoughts"

This poem is a 曲 "qu" or song of the 元 Yuan Dynasty which is akin to 詞 "ci" or song of the 宋 Song Dynasty made up of long and short lines. I had earlier last May posted a Song "ci", Yue Fei's "The River All Red". This is my first attempt at a Yuan "qu". This poem is particularly challenging as it is a sheer juxtaposition of images, e.g. "dried vine(s)", "old tree(s)", "evening crow(s)" in the first line followed by more in subsequent lines. While I can simply present the images in sequence (montage?) like most faithful translators do, I have chosen to give a clear interpretation to the whole poem by adding verbs to 4 of the 5 lines. So we have "crows ... roosting", "homes of people nestling" leading up in contrast to "scrawny horse ... trudging", "sun ... setting" (verb in the original), and "wanderer ... a-roaming". "They have homes, while I don't," so to speak. In so doing, I of course run the risk of being labelled "a square peg in a round hole" or, more precisely, "an over-sized square peg fits not the round hole". But at least some c'onsolation can be found in the "ing" rhyme in an AAAAA rhyme scheme made possible only by the addition of verbs not present but implied in the original. Please enjoy reading it out --- slowly but loudly.

Ma Zhiyuan (1260-1364):  Tian Jing Sha (Heavenly Pure Sand) -- Autumn Thoughts

1  An old tree, dried vines entwined, by ev’ning crows come roosting;

2  O’er a small bridge, by a running stream, homes of people nestling.
3  On an old road, in the autumn wind, a scrawny horse keeps trudging.
4  The sun, slanting, to the west, setting ---
5  Heart-torn, lovelorn, the wanderer, to the verge of the sky a-roaming.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者黄宏發
18th August 2010 (revised 19.8.10; 20.8.10; 6.9.10)
Translated from the original - 馬致遠:  天淨沙 -- 秋思

1  枯藤老樹昏鴉
2  小橋流水人家
3  古道西風瘦馬
4  夕陽西下
5  斷腸人在天涯

Notes:
* The original is in 5 lines with the first 3 lines in 6 characters, the 4th a 4-character line and the last line back to 6 characters. The rhyme scheme is AAAAA with an “a” or “ah” rhyme. (It should be noted that although the last word in the last line is pronounced “ngai” in Cantonese, it is “ya” in Putonghua.). My English rendition emulates the pattern of the original with 6 beats/stresses in the first 3 lines and the last and 4 beats/stresses in the 4th line. My rhyme scheme is AAAAA like the original, with a uniform “ing” ending. Although, strictly speaking, a simple “ing” does not constitute a rhyme, the pattern is pleasing to the eye and the rendition, hopefully, also pleasing to the ear. As will be seen from the following work draft, most of the verbs ending with “ing” are not in the original (lines 1-3 and 5) but are added primarily to produce this eye rhyme pattern:-
Dried (bald/bare) vines, old tree, evening crows (add: roosting)
Small bridge, running water (stream/rivulet), people (others) homes (add: nestling)
Old road, west (autumn/high) wind, scrawny horse (add: trudging)
Evening sun west sets (slanting/setting)
Guts-torn (heart-torn/love-lorn) man at sky’s (land’s) end (add: roaming/a-roaming)
As can also be seen from the above, although none of the verbs concerned is in the original, each and every is implied and is essential in translation whether into English or into modern day Chinese.
* Line 1: I had considered “dead”, “bald” and “bare” for but have decided for “dried”. I have added “entwined”, which is not in the original, for assonance with “vines” in addition to being descriptive of a scene of the symbiosis of the tree and vines. The word “come” in “come roosting” should be read unstressed.
* Line 2: For I have chosen “stream” over “waters/rivulet”. For 人家 I had considered “others’ homesteads/homes of others” to cover the poet’s (though ambiguous, yet readily apparent) meaning that none of the houses is the wanderer’s home, but have decided that “homes of people” should suffice. “Nestle/nestling” here is ambiguously rich in meaning. It takes in the meaning of both “lie half hidden or embedded in some place” and “lie snugly in some situation”. (Shorter Oxford Dictionary)
* Line 3: For 西風 I have rejected the literal “west wind(s)” as, to the Englishmen and the Europeans, west wind is a spring wind, Zephyr, which is not what the poet refers to. I have then considered “winds now high” but have decided for “in the autumn wind”. The word “keeps” in “keeps trudging” should be read unstressed.
* Line 5: I have spelt out “man” as the “wanderer”. I had considered “to/in the/a land at the sky’s end a-roaming”, but have decided for “to the verge of the sky a-roaming”. I have added “a- (meaning in the process of)” to “roaming” so as to amplify my interpretation that 在天涯 means 浪迹天涯 not just “at the verge of the sky”, but “to the verge of the sky a-roaming”.

02 August 2010

李白 Li Bai: 清平調 3首 其2 To the Qing and Ping Tune (for Lady Yang), 2 of 3

Here is the second verse of Li Bai's 3 verses to the tune of Qing and Ping which I promised to post in my June post. I hope you do enjoy it.

Li Bai (701-762):  To the Qing and Ping Tune (for Lady Yang), 2 of 3

1 Ablush, abloom, O peony, your fragrance dewdrops retain!
2 That nymph of mists and mizzles, was a rendezvous dreamt in vain;
3 And who in the courts of old times, your beauty might match? I ask.
4 ‘Twas (pity!) the pretty Feiyan, while her new paint was yet to wane.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
23rd January 2010 (revised 25.1.10; 1.2.10; 4.2.10; 8.2.10; 9.2.10; 10.2.10; 7.4.10)
Translated from the original - 李白: 清平調 3首 其2

1 一枝紅艷露凝香
2 雲雨巫山枉斷腸
3 借問漢宮誰得似
4 可憐飛燕倚新妝

Notes:-

* This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original.

* Line 1: I have used “ablush” for 紅 and “abloom” for 艶, and have added “oh peony” to say what is ablush, abloom is a particular peony on a particular stem 枝, made to stand for the lady.. For 凝, I had considered “sustain” and “contain”, but have decided for “retain”.

* Line 2: This is the legend of the King of Chu 楚 who, in dream, rendezvoused with the beautiful nymph/oread/fairy/goddess 神女 of Wu-Shan 巫山. I have decided to translate 巫山 not as the mountain but as its deity. In this context, the mountain clearly stands for the deity who lives there, and for this 神女, I have decided to use “nymph” for its beauty and simplicity although “oread” (mountain nymph) might be more appropriate. And, instead of translating 斷腸 (meaning heartbreak, literally guts severing), I have put in the “dreamt rendezvous” to make plain the legend referred to.

* Line 3: I had considered “Han times” to translate 漢 but have decided for “old times”.

* Line 4: I have translated 倚新妝 (“relying/counting on her new/fresh paint/ make-up”) as “while her new paint was yet to wane”.


02 July 2010

李白 Li Bai: 黃鶴樓送孟浩然 At the Yellow Crane Tower to Bid Meng Haoran Bon Voyage

This, in fact, is the first classical Chinese poem I attempted translating when I first began in earnest in March 2007 to pursue this ongoing hobby of translating classical Chinese poems into English. I was hesitant about what I wrote (please see my ultimate note) as I was still in search of an appropriate classical or quasi-classical form in English for the Chinese quatrain 绝句. This I soon found (grateful to 施颖洲's 中英對照讀唐詩宋詞 Tang and Song Poetry: Chinese-English 臺北:九歌 Taipei: Chiuko 2006 and, of course, to Edward FitzGerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam 1859) in (1) adherence to the original rhyme scheme of AAXA (or XAXA, if original), and (2) 4 lines of equal length counting beats or stresses or accents. I made a new attempt in December 2008 which is essentially the current version. I had forgotten I have yet to post it. But thanks to correspondence on this blog between Huy, Frank and myself in June 2010 (please see my January 2008 post, my first post) in which Huy asked for my version of the Yellow Crane Tower and, thinking he meant 李白 Li Bai's poem, I promised to post it in July 2010. It turned out he meant 崔灏 Cui Hao's and Frank understood him right. Anyhow, as promised, here is my rendition of Li Bai's Yellow Crane Tower (Cui Hao's which is an octet of 8 lines will have to wait):-

Li Bai (701—762): At the Yellow Crane Tower to Bid Meng Haoran Bon Voyage to Guangling

1 At the Yellow Crane Tower, my friend, to the west you said goodbye;
2 In this misty, flowery glorious spring, downstream for Yangzhou you ply.
3 A speck, a silhouette, your solitary sail, toward the verdant hills receding, till
4 My eyes but descry the grand Long River, rolling to the verge of the sky.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黄宏發
19th December 2008 (revised 22.12.08; 23.12.08; 29.12.08; 19.2.09; 9.6.10; 10.6.10)
Translated from the original - 李白: 黄鶴樓送孟浩然之廣陵

1 故人西辭黃鶴樓
2 煙花三月下揚州
3 孤帆遠影碧山(空)盡
4 惟見長江天際流

Notes:

* 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. This in fact is the first poem I attempted since picking up the hobby in March 2007. This first attempt, revised up to August 2007, was never published or posted and was abandoned as it is far too unorthodox. It is, however, reproduced below in the note on the abandoned translation to record my failure.

* Title: Yellow Crane Tower or Tower of the Yellow Crane is in present-day Wuhan in Hubei Province to the west of Guangling or Yangzhou . Meng Haoran, also a poet, was a friend of Li Bai’s. Guangling is present-day Yangzhou in Jiangsu Province, which was then also known as Yangzhou, hence, its appearance in the text in line 2.

* Line 1: I had used “bade goodbye”, but have now decided for “said goodbye”.

* Line 2: 三月 is the third month on the lunar Chinese calendar which is mid-spring. I had considered “the mists and blossoms of March and April”, but have decided to use “this misty, flowery glorious spring” to translate 煙花三月. The word “ply” is used not in the sense of “to sail/go periodically, to and fro, between certain places” but “to direct/steer one’s course for a certain destination” and should be used with “for”. In plain English, the line reads “…, you ply for Yangzhou downstream”.

* Line 3: I have adopted the 碧山 (verdant hills) version instead of the 碧空 (heavens azure or blue void) version. I had considered “fading/waning into the verdant hills” and “to/toward/towards the verdant hills recedes/you recede”, but have decided for “toward the verdant hills recedeing”.

* Line 4: I had considered “I”, but have decided for “My eyes”. I had considered “see/spy/espy”, but have decided for “descry”. For 長江 I had used “long, Long River”, but have decided for “grand Long River”. For 際 I had considered “fringe/end/margin”, but have decided for “verge”.

* The following is the abandoned translation of March 2007 revised up to August 2007 which is now further polished (in June 2010) so as to afford a comparison on a fairer basis :-

1 故人 Alas! My friend, for years my best,
   西辭 You bade farewell to your native west,
   黃鶴樓 At the Yellow Crane Tower we parted.
2 煙花 Willows misting, flowers in splendour,
   三月 ‘Tis the third month, the lunar calendar,
   下揚州 Downstream for Yangzhou, oh, you departed.
3 孤帆 That solitary sail for you they set,
   遠影 By now is but a distant silhouette,
   碧山(空)盡 Fading into the hills and heavens azure.
4 惟見 Now the only sight remaining clear,
   長江 A vista of a River long and drear,
   天際流 Rolling skywards to the horizon obscure.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
29th March 2007 (revised 4.4.2007; 10.4.2007; 26.4.2007; 10.5.2007; 14.5.2007; 27.5.2007; 17.7.2007; 18.7.2007; 23.7.2007; 30.7.2007; 14.8.07; polished 9.6.10; 11.6.10)


01 June 2010

李白 Li Bai: 清平調 3首 其1 To the Qing and Ping Tune (for Lady Yang), I of 3

This is done earlier this year. I do hope you like it. The other two will soon follow.

Li Bai (701-762): To the Qing and Ping Tune (for Lady Yang), 1 of 3

1 In clouds, I think of her raiment, in flowers, see her face,
2 Blooming, beaming by the railing, in Zephyr’s dewy embrace.
3 ‘Tis only on Hills of Emerald, might such a beauty be seen, else
4 By moonlight at Jasper Terrace, be blest to encounter her grace.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者:黃宏發
15th January 2010 (revised 18.1.10; 20.1.10; 21.1.10; 9.2.10; 26.2.10)
Translated from the original - 李白: 清平調 3首 其1

1 雲想衣裳花想容
2 春風拂檻露華濃
3 若非羣玉山頭見
4 會向瑶臺月下逢

Notes:-

* This English is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original.

* Title: The three verses were written by Li Bai impromptu upon being summoned to the palace garden where Emperor Xuanzong and his favourite concubine Lady Yang were admiring peony flowers in full bloom, hence, I have added (for Lady Yang).
.
* Line 1: I had considered and rejected “we/you think” (everyone, the Emperor included) for being too general and “one thinks” for being too impersonal, and have decided for “I think” (which can stand for either the poet or the Emperor). I had used “your raiment … your face” here, and “your grace” in line 4, but have decided for “her raiment … her face” and “her grace”.

* Line 2: To translate 春風 (spring wind), I have used “Zephyr” (the god of the west wind, being spring wind in Europe) to pave the way for the mythical references in lines 3 and 4. I have used “railing” to translate 檻 and rejected other interpretations such as “casement” or “window sill”. To translate 拂 (“stroke” or “caress”), I have used “embrace” for the rhyme, and have taken the liberty to change the object of the “embrace/stroke/caress” from the more literal railings to the more poetic flowers and beautiful lady.

* Lines 3 and 4: As explained in the note above, the proper names of 羣玉山 “Hills of Emerald” (line 3) and 瑶臺 “Jasper Terrace” (line 4) exist only in myths; here, the mythology of 西王母 Fairy Queen Mother of the Western Sky. I have added “beauty” (line 3) and “grace” (line 4) to make plain that lines 3 and 4 refer to the beautiful lady (who can only be from heaven/fairyland).
* Line 4: I have added “be blest” to convey a sense of good fortune and to complete the meter. I had used “meet/behold”, but have now decided for “encounter”.


03 May 2010

岳飛 Yue Fei: 滿江紅 Man Jiang Hong (The River All Red)

The following is my rendition of Yue Fei's "Man Jiang Hong" (The River All Red), the first time I post on my blog a 詞 (ci, i.e. lyrics to a tune) or, more descriptively, 長短句 (long and short lines). Hope you enjoy it.

Yue Fei (1103-1141): To the Tune of “Man Jiang Hong” (The River All Red)

1    By the railing I stand,
2    Showers have stopped,
3    I bristle with wrath, my hair uncaging.
4    My eyes towards the sky,
5    To arms! Long I cry,
6    To war, for a heavenly cause! I’m raging.
7    My decade of deeds, as dust I deem, short of the final victory,
8    O’er thousands of miles, day or night, been in battle engaging.
9    So take it to heart, get set!
10  Lest, in vain, we’ll regret,
11  Turned grey, our youthful heads, on aging.

12  Held captive still, our sovereigns,
13  Unavenged, this burning shame;
14  When? Why now is the hour
15  To burn out our vengeful flame.
16  O charge, you columns of chariots!
17  Crash that gap at Helan-Shan! Crush it in heaven’s name!
18  In hunger we eat their body, in thirst, drink their blood!
19  We’ll so boast of our bravery, as if them tartars were game.
20  All over again, in rally we stand:
21  Our homeland of old, to recapture,
22  Our emperor, “All hail!” to acclaim.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
11th September 2009 (revised 13.9.09; 15.9.09; 17.9.09: 18.9.09; 23.9.09; 24.9.09; 15.10.09; 16.10.09; 19.10.09; 4.11.09; 16.12.09; 9.3.10)
Translated from the original - 岳飛: 寄調 滿江紅

1    怒髮衝冠
2    憑闌處
3    瀟瀟雨歇
4    抬望眼
5    仰天長嘯
6    壯懷激烈
7    三十功名塵與土
8    八千里路雲和月
9    莫等閒
10  白了少年頭
11  空悲切

12  靖康恥
13  猶未雪
14  臣子恨
15  何時滅
16  駕長車
17  踏破賀蘭山缺
18  壯志饑餐胡虜肉
19  笑談渴飲匈奴血
20  待從頭
21  收拾舊山河
22  朝天阙

Notes:
* The original poem is in 2 stanzas of 11 lines each, with one common rhyme at lines 3, 6, 8, 11, then 13, 15, 17, 19, 22. I have taken this to mean that there are 9 sentences in the poem with 4 in the first stanza and 5 in the second. I have been unable to find a common rhyme for my English rendition and have decided to use an “-aging” rhyme in stanza 1 and an “-ame/aim” rhyme in stanza 2. I have also been unable to translate the lines correspondingly, and have changed the order where necessary but only within the respective sentences.
* Lines 1, 2 and 3 (being one sentence): Line 3 translates the original line 1, lines 1 and 2 are lines 2 and 3 in the original. In line 3, I have omitted translating 冠 “hat/helmet/headgear” and have simply rendered it as “my hair uncaging”.
* Lines 4, 5 and 6 (being one sentence): I have moved 仰天 “towards the sky” from the original line 5 to merge with 抬望眼 “raise my eyes to” in line 4 as “My eyes towards the sky”. I have added “To arms” in line 5 and “To war” in line 6 as the contents of the “long cry” 長嘯 to explain the making of this war poem. I had originally translated line 6 loosely as “’Tis a war for a heavenly cause we are waging”, but have now decided for “To war, for a heavenly cause! I am raging”. In either case, I have omitted translating 懷 “bosom/chest” or “heart/mind” which is implied in “for a heavenly cause”.
* Line 7: I have taken 三十 to mean “thirty odd years of age”, the poet must have been in the army for some 10 years, hence, “decade”. I have added “short of the final victory” to explain why the poet deemed his “deeds/feats/victories” as “dust/trifles”.
* Line 8: I have used “thousands of miles” to translate 八千里 “8,000 li” being only 2,400 miles. I have added “been in battle engaging” to make plain that the poet was in the army and at war.
* Lines 9, 10 and 11 (being one sentence): In line 9, I have taken 莫等閒 to mean 莫等閒視之 “don’t take it lightly” or “take it seriously”, hence, “take it to heart”. Line 11 translates the original line 10, and line 10, the original line 11.
* Lines 12 and 13 (being one sentence): “Held captive still, our sovereigns” in line 12 is not a literal translation of 靖康 “Jing Kang” which is the name of a period, but explains the history of the end of the North Song 北宋 dynasty with the
emperor 欽宗 Qin Zong and his father, the abdicated 徽宗 Hui Zong, both captured in the 2nd year of Jing Kang, hence, “sovereigns (in plural)” I have moved 恥 “shame” from the original line 12 to line13 and 猶 “still” from the original line 13 to line 12.
* Lines 14 and 15 (being one sentence): I have scrambled these 2 lines. The original line 15 何時滅 is taken to be a rhetorical question and translated as “When? why now is the hour!” in line 14 and “To burn out” in line 15. The original line 14 臣子恨 is translated as “our (臣generals’ and officials’, 子 soldiers’ and subjects’) vengeful flame” in line 15.
* Lines 12 to 22 (the second stanza): I am grateful to Xu Yuan-zhong for his “burning shame(line 13) and vengeful flame(line 15)” rhyme in his rendition of the same poem, pp. 470-473, “Bilingual Edition of 300 Song Lyrics”, Beijing, Higher Education Press, 2004 which has encouraged me to follow the rhyme through the entire second stanza, thus “name(17)-game(19)-acclaim(22)”.
* Line 17: I have added “in heaven’s name” to continue the “-ame/aim” rhyme and to further justify the war.
* Lines 18 and 19 (being one sentence): I have scrambled the 2 lines. First, I have put “hunger, eat, body” (line 18) and “thirst, drink, blood” (line 19) both into line 18. Second, I have scrambled 胡虜 “the Hu people” (line 18) and 匈奴 “the Hun people” (line 19)---虜 and 奴 being derogatory words for people---into line 19 as simply “them tartars”, with the word “them” signifying enmity (us and them) and the word “tartars” in lower case to convey the derogatory sense. Third, I have merged 壯志 (line 18) and 笑談 (line 19) into line 19 as “boast of our bravery”. I have chosen “boast” (I have rejected “brag”) to translate 笑談 and added “as if … were game” 獵物 to make clear my interpretation that the poet’s soldiers, though full of hatred (see “them tartars”), may not really be cannibals.
* Line 20: I take 待 to mean “ready/set/about to”, not “wait”, and 從頭 to mean “again/afresh”, not “begin/to or from the beginning”, hence, “All over again, in rally we stand”.
* Line 21: 收拾 is taken to mean “recapture/recover/restore/re-claim”, not “tidy up/reclaim”. I have translated 舊山河 as “homeland of old”
* Line 22: 朝天阙 “towards the heavenly (imperial palace) gate” is rendered in very concrete terms originally as “Long live the emperor! to acclaim”, now as “Our emperor, ‘All hail!’ to acclaim”.

01 April 2010

杜牧 Du Mu: 清明 Qingming, Early April

It is again early April, a season of mizzles and gloom. This must be the right time to post my rendition of Du Mu's quatrain "Qingming". Here we go.

Du Mu (803-852): Qingming, (the Fifth of) Early (revised 5.4.13) April

1  (Qingming the Fifth of April, a season of mizzles and gloom,)
    It is Qingming, early April, a season of mizzles and gloom, 
    (revised 5.4.13)
2  Away from home, a wayfarer, faring into gloom and doom.
3  (Oh, where can be found a tavern, my good lad, if I may ask?)
    O where can be found a tavern, my good lad, if I may ask? 
    (revised 5.4.13)
4  (There, points the herd-boy, to a village where apricots bloom.)
    There! points the herd-boy to a village where apricots bloom. 
    (revised 5.4.13)

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)         譯者: 黃宏發
16th December 2009 (revised 17.12.09; 18.12.09; 21.12.09; 22.12.09; 4.1.10; 5.1.10; 6.1.10; 7.1.10; 8.1.10)
Translated from the original - 杜牧: 清明

1  清明時節雨紛纷
2  路上行人欲斷魂
3  借問酒家何處有
4  牧童遙指杏花村

Notes:

* This English rendition is in hexameter (6 metrical feet) while the original is in 7-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA as in the original.

* Title and line 1: “Qingming” 清明 is a Chinese festival (for family reunion and visiting ancestral graves) which falls on the 5th (occasionally 4th or 6th) of April. I have, therefore, included “the Fifth of April” in both the title and line 1. I had considered dropping “Qingming” altogether from line 1, e.g. “’Tis again the Fifth of April” or “’Tis again early April”, but have decided otherwise.  Revised 5.4.2013:  I have now decided for "It is Qingming, early April" and "Qingming, Early April" for the title.

* Lines 1 and 2: The word “season” 時節 in line 1 refers to a period of time around the festival day, e.g. Christmas season, and does not mean one of the four seasons.
In line 1, I have added the word “gloom” obviously for the rhyme, but can also be justified as giving notice to and reinforcing “gloom and doom” in line 2 which translates 斷魂 (dispirited). I had used “I’m soaked/steeped in” and “I’m, alas, in” to translate 欲 (which means “on the verge of” or “about to”, and not “wish/desire/want”), but have decided for just “faring into” without “I’m”.

* Line 3: I had used “Oh, where can be found (can I find) a tavern, my despondent (dampened) spirits to lift?”, “Where, oh, where, I wonder, can a tavern somehow be found?”, and “Where, oh, where, I wonder, can a tavern be found? I ask.”, but have now decided for “Oh, where can be found a tavern, my good lad, if I may ask?” with “if I may ask” to translate 借問 and “good lad” added to pave the way for the herd-boy in line 4.  Revised 5.4.13:  I have revised "Oh, where" to read "O where".

* Line 4: I had considered “Thither” and “Yonder” but have decided for “There” which, though not closest to 遙 (far), suffices and which rhymes with “where” in line 3 (perhaps also line 4). I had considered “says”, but have decided to use the literal “points” to translate 指.  Revised 5.4.2013:  I have deleted the second comma and changed the first to an exclamation mark.


01 March 2010

贾島 Jia Dao: 尋隱者不遇 Visiting the Absent Hermit

The following translation (of a poem which I very much love) was done some 2 years ago and is now posted for the first time. I hope my English rendition is equally lovable.

Jia Dao (779—843): Visiting the Absent Hermit

1  Beneath the pine-trees, I ask of a lad I see.
2  Away is the master gathering herbs, says he,
3  Up in this mountain, but where? I cannot tell,
4  For there the clouds are deep and dense as be.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黃宏發
17 March 2008 (revised 19.3.08; 7.7.08; 17.7.08; 19.7.08; 21.11.08; 25.11.08; 26.11.08)
Translated from the original - 賈島: 尋隱者不遇

1  松下問童子
2  言師採藥去
3  只在此山中
4  雲深不知處

Notes:-
* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme in the Chinese original is XAXA. My rendition changes it to the more demanding AAXA.
* Line 1: I have chosen “a lad” instead of “the lad” as the Chinese original merely says 童子(boy) which I take to mean a boy the poet happens to see there who, on reply, turns out to be the pupil/apprentice.
* Line 2: I have chosen “the master” instead of “my master”.
* Lines 3 and 4: I have moved the “know not” or “cannot tell” idea from line 4 of the original to line 3 in this English rendition.

08 February 2010

白居易 Bai Juyi: 夜雪 Night in Snow

It is snowing so heavy in Washington D.C. which I am due to visit on the 10th, that I have decided to post this little poem by Bai Juyi (or Po Chu-I). It was translated last July/August. I hope you like it.

Bai Juyi (772-846): Night in Snow

1 Surprised to find, O so cold, my quilt and pillow,
2 Then light I see through the papered casement window.
3 Deep in the night, so heavy’s the snow, I know, when
4 Bamboos go crack ~ a sound, now ‘n’ then, I follow.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黃宏發
22nd July 2009 (revised 23.7.09; 24.7.09; 3.8.09; 4.8.09; 5.8.09)
Translated from the original - 白居易: 夜雪

1 已訝衾枕冷
2 復見窗户明
3 夜深知雪重
4 時聞折竹聲

Notes:
* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AABA as I take the original to be. The “pillow, window, follow” rhyme is unstressed (feminine). The internal rhyme of “snow, know” in line 3 is stressed (masculine).
* Line 2: The word 復 here means “then”, not “again”. The word 户 “door” is omitted in the translation as it refers to the Chinese “casement door” which is also a window. The word “papered” is added to make clear it is not a glass casement window/door which did not yet exist.
* Line 4: For the sound of bamboos breaking, I had considered “snap” and “clack”, but have decided for “crack”. For the word 時, I had considered “e’er ‘n’ anon” and “then ‘n’ again”, but have decided for “now ‘n’ then”
`

05 January 2010

王维 Wang Wei: 雜詩 A Poem of Sundry Lines

Here is my latest translation. I have chosen January which is when winter-sweet and plum or mume flowers are blooming.

Wang Wei (701-761): (A Poem in a Miscellany)
A Poem of Sundry Lines  
(revised 29.9.2014)

1 Sir, from our hometown, you've just arrived,
2 Of things at home, I should think you know.
3 That day you left: by my latticed window, were
4 The wintersweet flowers, beginning to blow?

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)       譯者: 黄宏發
21st December 2009 (revised 22.12.09; 23.12.09)
Translated from the original - 王維: 雜詩

1 君自故鄉來
2 應知故鄉事
3 來日绮窗前
4 寒梅著花未

Notes:
• This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.
• Lines 1and 2: Instead of “my”, I have used “our” in line 1 to make clear that the visitor is a native of the same hometown, thus, familiar with “things at home” in line 2. I have inverted the order of the 2 phrases in line 2 and, to end it, I had considered the literal translation of 應知 as “you ought to/should know” on the one hand and the implied meaning of “I would/should love to know” on the other, but have decided for the polite conversational rendition of “I should think you know” (not “I think you should know”).
• Line 3: I have decided to use “latticed window”, as a “brocade/brocaded/silken window” makes no sense and any window with paper/silk/brocade mounted must first be latticed.
• Line 4: I have used “wintersweet” 蠟/臘梅 to translate 寒梅 “winter plum”. Although 蠟/臘梅 (chimonanthus praecox) and 梅 (the Chinese/Japanese plum, prunus mume) are different plants, they have a lot in common. Both are native to China, both have fragrant flowers, and both blossom in winter. I have chosen to follow a Chinese folksong entitled” 踏雪尋梅” which runs 雪霽天晴朗 (Snow has stopped, the sky is clear) 臘梅處處香 (The wintersweet’s fragrance is everywhere) … and which makes explicit, at least in this case, that 梅 (literally Chinese plum or mume) in the title refers to 蠟/臘梅 (wintersweet).