07 August 2013

管道昇 Guan Daosheng: 我儂詞 Song of Me and You (Clay Figures)

This is a love poem purportedly written by a lady painter named 管道昇 Guan Daosheng (Kuan Tao-Sheng) wife of the famed calligraphist 趙孟頫 Zhao Menghu in the early years of the 元 Yuan (Mongols) dynasty (1271-1368).

Legend has it that Zhao was considering marrying a second wife (a concubine) which was a commonplace practice in China in those days particularly among the rich and powerful and Zhao was a very high-ranking government official.  Though Guan was unhappy, she did not create a row but simply wrote this little love poem.  Zhao found the poem and was so moved that he at once dropped all such thoughts.  After Guan passed away, Zhao never re-married and chose to be buried with Guan.

The famed American poet and translator of Chinese poetry Kenneth Rexroth did a superb translation of this poem which he has entitled "Married Love" from which I have borrowed, specifically the idea of "figure".  I will reproduce here his rendition at the end of my notes below.  www.bopsecrets.org/rexroth/translations/chinese.htm 

Here is my rendition:-      

Guan Daosheng (1262-1319): Song of Me and You (Clay Figures)

1  (You and I, O I and you, so much in love are we;)
    You and me, and me and you, so much in love are we;
    (revised 27.8.13)
2  So much in love, like bathing in fire are we.

3  We knead and shape a clod of clay into figures of you and me:
4  We smash, trash our two figures, add water to admix the debris
5  To again knead and shape fresh figures of you and me;
6  In my clay then, you'll abide, and in yours, there I'll be.

7  (O you and I, in life, one single quilt we share,)
    O me and you, in life, one single quilt we share,
    (revised 27.8.13)
8  In death, in the same coffin, please bury me.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發
15th July 2009 (revised 16.7.09; 17.7.09; 23.9.09; touched up 7.8.13; 27.8.13)
Translated from the original - 管道昇我儂詞

1  你儂我儂 忒煞情多
2   情多處 熱似火

3   把一塊泥 捻一個你 塑一個我
4   將咱兩個 一齊打破 用水調和
5   再捻一個你 再塑一個我
6   我泥中有你 你泥中有我

7   我與你 生同一個衾

*  I have arranged the original 17 lines (of varying lengths) into 8 lines (also of varying lengths) grouped in 3 stanzas to make easier reading.  The English rendition follows this arrangement.  The rhyme scheme is AA-AAAA-BA which follows the original under this arrangement.
*  Title and line 1:  The word 儂 usually means “you你/妳” but can also mean “I/me我” or even “he/she 他/她” depending on the context.  I have taken the first 儂 in line 1 to mean “I/me” hence你儂 means “You and I”.  As for the 儂 in the title and the second 儂 in line 1, the usual “you” meaning should be followed since the order of words is 我儂 which must mean “me and you”.
*    Line 2:  For 熱似火 I had considered the literal “as hot as fire are we” but have decided for the more poetic (I hope) “like bathing in fire are we”.
*    Line 3:  For 一塊泥 I had considered “a piece of clay” but have decided for “a clod of clay” for the alliteration. 
*    Lines 3 and 5:  Instead of putting 捻 ”knead” and 塑 “shape”( and 你 “you” and 我 “me”) in two segments of the line as separate segments, I have collapsed the two and have rendered them conjointly as “knead and shape… figures of you and me”.  In the context of “knead and shape”, “you and me” must mean “figures of you and me”.
*    Line 4:  Similar to “you and me” above, I have rendered 咱兩個 as “our two figures” and not literally as “the two of us”.  In the context of 打破 “smash, trash”, the expression must mean the two figures.  I have added the word “debris” (which is not in the original) for the rhyme.
*    Line 5:  To translate 再 I have used “again” and “fresh”.  I had considered “new” but have decided for “fresh” for the alliteration in “fresh figures”.

Kenneth Rexroth's translation of the poem:=
Kuan Tao-Sheng:  Married Love

You and I
Have so much love,
That it
Burns like a fire,
In which we bake a lump of clay
Molded into a figure of you 
And a figure of me.
Then we take both of them,
And break them into pieces, 
And mix the pieces with water,
And mold again a figure of you,
And a figure of me.
I am in your clay.
Your are in my clay.
In life we share a single quilt.
In death we will share one coffin.

Postscript 1 (dated 13.8.2013):  I have now changed the title from "I and You Song" to "Song of Me and You".  The poem was turned into a real song by 李抱忱 (1907-1979) who wrote the music and adapted the words of the poem to the music.  It became very popular in the 1970's and was sung by one and many song stars including 姚蘇蓉 which can be easily accessed, say on the "youtube".  I enjoy in particular the rendition by 包娜娜.  Link:: http://mojim.com/tw_search_u2_hBqzAyjif1U.html.  Hope you like it too.
I have learned from the web that 李抱忱 entitled this song 請相信我 subtitled 你儂我儂 which was first sung by 陳明律 and here is the link:  http://mojim.com/tw_search_u2_Z0wLiMQuEds.html?h=%E5%8C%85%E5%A8%9C%E5%A8%9C%2B%E4%BD%A0%E5%84%82%E6%88%91%E5%84%82.
I have further learned from the web that 李抱忱 also wrote the English lyrics of this song under the title of "Believe Me Dear", but have been unable to find the words.  Will anyone help, please? .

Postscript 2 (dated 27.8.2013):  Following my revision of the title in the last postscript, I have now also revised (a) line 1 to read "You and me, O me and you, so much in love are we" and (b) line 7 to read "O me and you, in life".  These revisions are effected in the post.