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


* 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”.