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Category: Poems by – 李白 (710-762)
我本楚狂人 I am an oddity from the south
凤歌笑孔丘 Confucius jokes I sung
手持绿玉杖 A jade green bamboo cane I hold on
朝别黄鹤楼 I leave the Yellow Crane Tower at dawn Continue reading
Ziye’s Ballads of the Four Seasons* Li Bai (701-762)
Tr. YK Chan 陈耀国译
* Note: 亦作”子夜吳歌”。Also known as “Ziye’s Song of Wu”.
“子夜” (Midnight) was the name of a woman in the Jin 晉 Dynasty (265 – 420), who allegedly started this ballad style of poem in southern China.
Maiden Luofu in the land of Qin,
Picks mulberry leaves by the river.
Her pale arms stretched across the green bough,
In bright sunlight her red dress shimmers.
Silkworms famished I’d like to go,
Ought not to loiter here your five-horse carriage.
Mirror Lake stretches far and wide,
Teeming with lotus blossoms nigh.
In the fifth moon when Xi Shi the beauty picks the flowers,
Onlookers amass in Yuoye1 for such a spectacular.
Before moonrise her boat returns,
To the royal house as heads turn.
1 Xi Shi’s hometown
The moon shines bright over Chang An City;
Household laundry bats are stirring the night.
Autumn breezes forever blow and blow,
Always carry my heart to Gate Jadeite.
When will all the Tartars be conquered,
To let my dear husband quit this distant fight?
Next morn the courier is setting off;
My warrior’s gown has to be sewn tonight.
Slender hands pulling a chilly needle;
Those scissors can hardly be held tight.
To send the tailored garment far away,
When will it reach Lintao and be alright?
Yu Fong-ying 余晃英 (WYK1961) recently started me to think about getting Chinese verse forms adapted for the English language as some worthy contribution to cross-cultural fertilization. Both the sonnet and the haiku have been successfully adapted into English from Italy and Japan, respectively. Maybe some Chinese verse forms too can be similarly adapted.
I picked Li Bai’s best known 4-line poem 夜思 as a first attempt at this adaptation. Over the Easter long weekend, with Fong-ying’s collaboration, we arrived at the version below to start the ball rolling for anyone who is interested in taking up this challenge. It does not have to be a translation. It can be a composition in the form of a 4-line pentasyllabic verse, 五绝 (wujue), preferrably in monosyllables and with the rhyme scheme of abcb, but any 4-line pentasyllabic verse will do. A 4-line septasyllabic verse, 七绝 (qijue), is fine too. Also see Fong-ying’s wujue English composition “This Place I Roam” below. –YK Chan (WYK1965)
夜思 李白 Nocturnal Thoughts Li Bai
(五绝) (Wujue : A four-line pentasyllabic verse) Tr. by YK Chan & FY Yu
床前明月光, Bed side, Bright Moon shines;
疑是地上霜. Ground frost comes so fine?
举头望明月, Up at Moon I look;
低头思故乡. Down, for home I pine.
Wujue: This Place I Roam 五绝: 此地堪浪游
By YU Fong-ying 余晃英作 陈耀国译
Red the maple leaves 枫叶红北国
White hilltops like dome 穹顶白岭头|
Homeland now it is 新乡兹落户
This new place I roam 此地堪浪游
送友人 Farewell to A Friend
李白 Li Bai (701-762)
李白 Li Bai (701-762)
tr. YK Chan 陳耀國譯
青山横北郭，白水绕东城。 Green hills traverse the northern outskirts; glistening water meanders to city east.
此地一为别，孤蓬万里征。 At this departure point, you as a lone sail navigate ten thousand li at least.
浮云游子意，落日故人情。 A wanderer drifts like clouds, till sunset he recalls old friends and deeds.
挥手自兹去，萧萧班马鸣。 Waving good-bye to you from here, neighing too are our riding steeds.
行路難 行路難 多歧路 今安在
The Road of Life is Difficult Li Bai (701-762) 江紹倫譯
Golden bottled wine costs then thousand coins a barrel
Choice food in jade plates the same price to follow
Drinks ceased I raise my chopsticks in vain
My sword drawn I look around only to feel empty pain
I wish to cross the Yellow River it is frozen
I wish to climb Mount Taihang it is full of snow
In idle I enjoy time fishing by the blue stream
And dream of sailing a boat into the sunny horizon
The road of life is difficult
The road of life is difficult
Full of diverting paths
Whither should I go
The time will come whence I ride strong winds to cleave the waves
I will hoist my sail tall to triumph in the high sea.
Farewell to Uncle Yun at Xuanzhou Li Bai (701-762) 江紹倫譯
What has deserted me yesterday I would not retain
What is disturbing me today its worry will not stay
See how wild geese ride the autumn wind ten thousand li away
A grand sight that calls for rounds of wine to celebrate
While your writings equal the powers of ancient poet saints
My essays are like little Xie’s prose simple and plain
We both share the same ambitions aiming high
Wishing to pick the moon down from the sky
I try to sever the river with my sword its torrents speed up the flow
I try to drown my sorrows with wine more sorrows come on tow
My life in this world is not without despair
Tomorrow let’s sail our boat freely with loosened hair
Song of Moon O’er Mt. O Mei Li Bai (701-762) 江紹倫譯
The moon o’er Mt. O Mei appears like autumn’s golden brow
She casts fancy shadows on the meandering river as it quietly flows
I will set out from Clear Stream for the Three Gorges tonight
How I miss you when the tall cliffs keep you out of my sight
Watching Jingting Peak in Solitude Li Bai (701-762) 江紹倫譯
Birds stop before reaching your majestic peak so high
Solitary clouds drift over you free and nigh
Where I can tirelessly watch birds and clouds the wonderful view
Here when I’m sitting in front of you
Conversation in the Hills Li Bai (701-762) 江紹倫譯
I dwell in among green hills someone asks why
My mind at ease with a smile I give no reply
To watch the stream carrying peach blossoms pass my window by
This place is too wonderful for man it is a paradise
Flute Music in a Spring Night at Louyang Li Bai(761-762) 江紹倫譯
From whose flute this music is stirring the air
Carried by the east wind to Louyang it enters everybody’s ear
‘Tis the farewell song Willow Branches that’s heard tonight
Who would not feel for our lost motherland nostalgia surge high