Overnight at a Mountain Temple tr. SL Kong (1953)
High on the cliff the dangling temple stands
Where I can pluck stars with my hands
Deep at night I dare not speak aloud
Else I wake the dwellers above the cloud
Passing the Night in a Mountain Temple tr. By F Y. Yu (1961)
The temple rears to a precipitous height.
My hand, it can pluck the stars!
I speak not a word loud
For fear of distracting the heavenly beings.
Lodging at a Mountain Temple tr. By Y K Chan (1965)
In the towering temple at staggering height,
Stars in heaven can be plucked.
Dare not to raise a voice,
For fear of startling those high up.
Staying the Night at a Mountain Temple tr By Arthur Cooper
The high tower is a hundred feet tall,
From here one’s hand could pluck the stars.
I do not dare to speak in a loud voice,
I fear to disturb the people in heaven.
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 afterall 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 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)
* 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 “题 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.