李白: 題峰顶寺 (夜宿山寺)

Submitted on 2009/12/14 at 1:29am

I am Andrew Wong, Wah Yan Hong Kong matriculation 1963. Last week, I came across your blog by accident and discovered you are translating Tang and Song poetry in earnest. I happen to share this interest. Fr. John Turner was after all my teacher. And I think F.Y. Yu and I read poetry under Edmund Blunden in 1963-64 at the University of Hong Kong. Here is my rendition of a version of the same poem by the older Li Bai:-

李白: 題峰顶寺 (夜宿山寺)

Li Bai (701-762): Written at the Summit Temple
(Lodged for the Night at a Mountain Temple)

1 夜宿峰頂寺(危樓高百尺)
2 舉手捫(手可摘)星辰
3 不敢高聲語
4 恐驚天上人

1 I lodge for the night at Summit Temple,
2 Can touch, at arm’s reach, the stars so nigh;
3 Yet I dare not raise my voice in speech,
4 For fear might disturb the beings up high.

Translated by Andrew Wong W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黄宏發
8th December 2009 (revised 10.12.09: 11.12.09; 12.12.09)

Notes:
* This English rendition is a tetrameter (4 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-character lines. The rhyme scheme is ABCB as in the original.
* The 2 versions: I have chosen to translate the “ Written” version over the “夜宿 Lodged for the Night” version (the latter shown here in parenthesis) as the former, purportedly, was written by Li Bai in his mid years while the latter by him as a teenager.
* Line 2: I have interpreted the line not literally as “raise my hand to touch the stars” which would contradict lines 3 and 4, but as “can touch, at arm’s reach, the stars” (but will refrain from doing so). I have also added “so nigh”, which is implied and which is the essence of this interpretation, to make the “nigh-sky (or high)” rhyme.
* Line 3: I had considered “raise my voice when speaking’ but have decided for “raise my voice in speech”.
* Line 4: I have translated 驚 as “disturb” in the 驚動 (not “wake” 驚醒) sense. I had considered “gods”, “deities”, “immortals”, “fairies”, “souls”, “populace”, etc. but have decided for “beings”, being closest to 人 “humans”. I had considered “beings in/of the sky”, but have decided for “beings up high” with “up” covering 上 and “high” covering 天.

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