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Composition

My poem “Spring Night (After Su Shi)” was just published online at Shot Glass journal, and can be found here. This is not exactly a translation, as I’ve changed some details to suit my liking. My attempt at a proper translation is here.

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Translation

The kudzu is spreading,
extending through the valley,
its foliage lush.
Siskins in flight
gather in the vines,
sounding cheep, cheep.

The kudzu is spreading,
extending through the valley,
its foliage dense.
I cut it and steam it
to make fine and coarse cloth,
clothing I won’t tire of.

I tell my nurse,
tell her I’m going home.
I clean my underwear,
I wash my clothes.
Which are washed? Which not?
I’m going to visit my parents.

Original

葛之覃兮
施于中谷
維葉萋萋
黃鳥于飛
集于灌木
其鳴喈喈

葛之覃兮
施于中谷
維葉莫莫
是刈是濩
為絺為綌
服之無斁

言告師氏
言告言歸
薄污我私
薄澣我衣
害澣害否
歸寧父母

Translation:

Drinking Wine (5)

I build my hut in a settled place
And yet—no clamor of carts or horses.

You ask, sir, How can it be so?
The distant heart secludes the place.

Plucking chrysanthemums at the eastern hedge,
Idly observing the southern mountains,

The mountain air beautiful day and night,
The birds returning like old friends—

In all of this, there is clear meaning.
Even hoping to share it, I lose speech.

Original (traditional characters):

飲酒

結廬在人境
而無車馬喧
問君何能爾
心遠地自偏
採菊東籬下
悠然見南山
山氣日夕佳
飛鳥相與還
此中有真意
欲辯已忘言

Original (simplified characters):

饮酒

结庐在人境
而无车马喧
问君何能尔
心远地自偏
采菊东篱下
悠然见南山
山气日夕佳
飞鸟相与还
此中有真意
欲辨已忘言

I have been convinced, especially by Hanna’s comments on my previous attempt at translating this, that pulling the repeated words in the original directly into the translation does not work. Here, accordingly, is a revised translation.

Original:

春宵一刻值千金
花有清香月有阴
歌管楼台声细细
秋千院落夜沉沉

Translation:

Spring night: one moment is worth a thousand in gold.
Faint scent of flowers, shadowy moon.
From the high tower, a flute song, soft.
In the courtyard, a swing, vanishing in the night.

Comments:

Without the repeated words, it’s hard to capture the parallelism of the last two lines that is so obvious in the original. I’ve tried to do that by mirroring the grammatical constructions, though I’ve had to lose the direct parallel between the soft flute song and the heavy night. For the last line, I’ve tried to capture the heaviness of the night by making the swing vanish into it. This is a liberty, and maybe an ill-advised one, but I am not sure the last line can be captured without some liberty. (Burton Watson’s fine translation, presented in the post linked above, says the night is “deep and still”—equally a liberty.)

I also made a minor change to the first line, mostly for the sake of rhythm.

Addendum

I thanked Hanna above for her criticisms of the first, but on re-reading our earlier discussion I realized that my changes to the first and fourth lines above mirrored the translation she posted there. That wasn’t intentional, but very likely was subconscious, so I owe her a second note of gratitude.