02 August 2011

李白 Li Bai: 秋浦歌 17首 其14 (1- 爐火照天地) Song of Qiupu 14 of 17 (1--Their furnace fire illumes both earth and sky)

Here, we have a rare and unique poem by the poet immortal Li Bai---in praise of labour, in praise of smelters in particular and of working men in general without using in the original poem, a single word of praise on labour, on smelting and on the workers. This English rendition of mine falls short of his very high standard, not far short, I hope, as I have only spelt out the "smelters". I do hope you will enjoy it.

My rendition was first posted 3 days ago last Friday on my HKEJ blog (link at top right corner of this page) . I wish to take this opportunity to thank all fellow bloggers who have contributed to that blog and this. It was they on the other blog that goaded me to take on the translation of this particular poem in the first place. Here is my rendition slightly revised:-

Li Bai (701-762): Song of Qiupu 14 of 17 (1- Their furnace fire illumes both earth and sky)

1  Their furnace fire illumes both earth and sky,
2  Red sparks spiking its purple smoke awry.
3     A night in clear moonlight, the red-faced smelters,
4    Their songs bestir the wintry stream nearby.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
20th July 2011 (revised 30.7.11)
Translated from the original - 李白秋浦歌 17首 其14 (1- 爐火照天地)

1      爐火照天地
2      紅星亂紫煙
3      赧郎明月夜
4      歌曲動寒川


* This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme is AAXA while the original’s is XAXA.

* Line 1: I had considered “The furnace fire lights up the earth and sky” but have decided for “Their furnace fire illumes both earth and sky”. The order of 天地 “sky” and “earth” is reversed as “earth and sky” sounds so much better and also as to start the rhyme with “sky”.

* Line 2: I had originally begun the line with "Its red sparks" but have now decided for simply "Red sparks". I had considered “poking” but have now decided to use “spiking”.

* Line 3: I have reversed the order of the 2 halves of the line. For 明月夜, I had considered “On this a moonlit night” which is clearly inferior to “A night in clear moonlight”. For 赧郎 (red-faced men), I have decided to abandon literal translations such as “the men, red-faced”, “the men, all flushed” and “their faces, all red/flushed” to make plain those men are not just men, not even just workers, but smelters, hence, “the red-faced smelters”.

* Line 4: I had considered using “work songs”, but with “smelters” spelt out in line 3, I can simply use “songs”. I have added “nearby” to end the rhyme. The addition is reasonable as smelting requires water close by.