Moon Faraway Person Thinking

Translated any poems lately? If so, then why not post them here?
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dedalus
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Moon Faraway Person Thinking

Post by dedalus » Thu Jan 19, 2012 2:44 pm

Looking at the Moon and Thinking of One Far Away

望月懷遠

海上生明月, 天涯共此時。
情人怨遙夜, 竟夕起相思。
滅燭憐光滿, 披衣覺露滋。
不堪盈手贈, 還寢夢佳期。



Over the sea the moon
brightens heaven, brings
to separated hearts
thoughts in the night.

It is no darker
though I blow out my candle.
It is no warmer
though I put on my coat.

So I leave my message
with the moon,
and I go to my bed
hoping for dreams.

-- 張 九 齡 Zhang Jiuling
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhang_Jiuling

Translator's note: I hope your computer is able to read and transmit the Chinese characters of the original poem, if for no other reason than that they are so concise and elegant! A difficulty arises in all translations from the Chinese (or Japanese) in that the brevity and directness of the style causes all kinds of technical problems in attempts to reproduce the content in English while adhering to the driving spirit of the poem. The mental worlds surrounding our varied languages and ways of thinking are different, of course, and never more so than when dealing with faraway cultures. Although this poem was composed more than a thousand years ago it is as fresh as the day it was written! You will notice there are three 4-line stanzas in the translation whereas the original is composed of 4 separate stanzas made up by each horizontal line divided into two sections of five Chinese characters apiece. The first stanza of the translation actually combines the first two stanzas of the original, i.e the first half of the poem. This was done on purpose by me in order to maintain the velocity as well as the content of the poem ... and if you can understand that, welcome to the world of translation!
Last edited by dedalus on Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:51 am, edited 4 times in total.

Lake
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Re: Moon Faraway Person Thinking

Post by Lake » Thu Jan 19, 2012 7:23 pm

Hi dedalus,

Enjoy reading your translation. It is clearly not a word by word translation. You definately put your thoughts into it.
I wonder if there might be one more stanza between S1 and S2? Or is it that the meaning in line 3 and 4 is combined with line 2? Just felt there's something missing.
I like the repeated sentence structure in S2, but again it is how the translator interprets.
Enjoyed your easy-read style.


Regards,
Lake
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Antcliff
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Re: Moon Faraway Person Thinking

Post by Antcliff » Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:35 am

Enjoyed moon poem...fits my thoughts quite well this morning.
Cheers Ant
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

dedalus
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Re: Moon Faraway Person Thinking

Post by dedalus » Fri Jan 20, 2012 5:22 am

Stanza 1 takes up the first two lines of the original Chinese (i.e. the first half of the poem) but I kept it together to fit a 4-line format. I thought this was a lovely poem -- written more than a thousand years ago! -- and I am pleased that you and Antcliff enjoyed it as well.
-- Bren

dedalus
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Re: Moon Faraway Person Thinking

Post by dedalus » Fri Jan 20, 2012 6:31 am

I have appended a translator's note to cover the technical bits. Cheers!

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Suzanne
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Re: Moon Faraway Person Thinking

Post by Suzanne » Fri Jan 20, 2012 7:08 pm

I enjoyed this too.

Lovely thing, the moon. I find Orion to be an equally comforting presence in the winter sky.

The Japanese is so beautiful on the page.
Suzanne

Lake
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Re: Moon Faraway Person Thinking

Post by Lake » Sat Jan 21, 2012 2:27 am

Hi Bren,

Thank you for the translator's note, it explains well.

I admire your apporach of free translation - adhering to the driving spirit, expressing in a concise and smooth way.
I noticed that you combined the first four original lines in one stanza, while leaving two lines in S2 and 3 respectively. After reading it a few more times, I quite like this arrangement - the combined S1, otherwise there will be some repetition which may make the translation sound redundant.
As I said in my previous reply, I like the sentence structure in S2 very much, but I feel I interpret it a bit differently than you do. So is the first two lines in S3. IMay I take it as a creative translation?

I have to admit I can't do it as well as you do. So great job!

Lake
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Re: Moon Faraway Person Thinking

Post by dedalus » Thu Feb 14, 2013 3:16 pm

I think the best translator ever of Chinese poetry was Ezra Pound - who couldn't speak the language and who never even went to China! He was a total horrorshow in the eyes of Western academics who had spent years studying the language and the elegant intricacies of the writing system. But EP got under the skin of T'ang poetry by osmosis, if you like, in a way that nobody else has done before or since. At the time of his translations (the 1920s and 30s) China was dismissed as a peripheral declining power and racial attitudes in the West added to the general air of indifference. EP recognized the power and purity of Chinese poetry in a way that cannot help but inspire those of us who follow in his footsteps. I cannot speak the language but I can read many of the characters which are shared with Japan, a country whose language I DO speak, and although I have a great affection for the clipped forms of Japanese haiku and tanka, I find the Chinese poetry infinitely more attractive and closer to my heart. The amazing and wonderful thing is that the Chinese characters are essentially the same and unlike the changing forms of language as expressed in a phonetic system that follows the vagaries and developments of a spoken language they remain as clear and pristine as the day they were written, 1500 or 1000 years ago. The communication is fresh and direct. Wow!!

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Re: Moon Faraway Person Thinking

Post by twoleftfeet » Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:35 am

Wonderful poem!
Thanks for translating it, Bren.

The Taoist imagery is so simple, yet so thought-provokingly profound.

Geoff
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Re: Moon Faraway Person Thinking

Post by Lake » Sun Mar 10, 2013 3:55 pm

I respect EP's contribution to the translation of Chinese classical poetry and introducing Chinese poetry to the western world. Besides, I also very fond of the translation by Gary Snyder and Kenneth Rexroth.

L
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