Sitting Silently

Translated any poems lately? If so, then why not post them here?
Lake
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Sitting Silently

Post by Lake » Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:01 pm

静坐
林徽因(25年冬11月)

冬有冬的来意,
寒冷像花,——
花有花香,冬有回忆一把。
一条枯枝影,青烟色的细瘦,
在午后的窗前拖过一笔画;
寒里日光淡了,渐斜……
就是那样地
像待客人说话
我在静沉中默啜着茶。


Sitting Silently

Winter has its purpose in coming,
cold as flowers ——
flowers have fragrance, winter a handful of memories.
The shadow of a withered twig, slim as a wisp of blue smoke,
drags a stroke before the afternoon window;
In the cold, the sunlight becomes dim, slanting gradually ...
It’s just like that
as if waiting for the guest to talk
I sip tea quietly in silence.


.
Last edited by Lake on Fri Mar 15, 2013 2:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Antcliff » Wed Mar 13, 2013 1:57 pm

Hi Lake,
Hooray..I enjoy your translations.
I'll be back...but I have a question about this line..
chilly like flowers
Does it mean ..chilly like flowers..specifically in winter? I don't think of flowers as chilly. Or have I misunderstood?

w
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Antcliff » Thu Mar 14, 2013 3:44 pm

Hi,
returning (my internet was down). I do like this a lot..especially:


The shadow of a withered twig, slim as a wisp of blue smoke,
drags a stroke before the afternoon window;
In the cold, the sunlight becomes dim, slanting gradually ...
It’s just like that
as if waiting for the guest to talk
I sip tea quietly in silence.


I liked the smoke/drags a stroke bit, both for sound and for image. That was a real highlight for me..bravo..as was the closing comparison.

I did not quite understand the role of these two lines at start:

chilly like flowers ——
flowers have fragrance,

seth
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Lake » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:34 pm

Hi Seth,

Thank you very much for reading and for coming back again.

Your question is my question - "cold as flowers", that's the exact wording in the original. Flowers arouse the sense of smell, but in the poem they are compared to the cold winter. I didn't quite get it either, so I posted it here for others to help me understand. :)

Regards,

Lake
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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Macavity » Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:19 pm

cold as flowers
I prefer that phrase Lake. Is the translation a particular flower?

mac

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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Lake » Fri Mar 15, 2013 2:31 pm

Hi Mac,

I'll change it to "cold" then. No, the orginal version didn't mention any specific flower.

Thanks,
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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Antcliff » Fri Mar 15, 2013 3:22 pm

Lake,
do you think the poet is implying that flowers are cold/chilly in the sense of "indifferent" to us...not really caring. As in "she was cold/chilly with me when I called"?

Seth
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Lake » Wed Mar 20, 2013 1:56 pm

Antcliff wrote: do you think the poet is implying that flowers are cold/chilly in the sense of "indifferent" to us...not really caring. As in "she was cold/chilly with me when I called"?
Seth,

I think it is one of good interpretations.

Thank you.

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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Antcliff » Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:52 pm

I am curious, Lake. Who were you translating?

seth
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Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Lake » Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:37 pm

Thanks Seth for your curiosity.

Her name is Lin Huiyin (1904-1955), a poet and architectural historian from the first half of the 20th century in China, was an erudite generalist who wrote about literature, arts, architecture and philosophy. Studied at University of Pennsylvania and Yale University , befriended with Indian poet Tagore... More info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lin_Huiyin

Cheers,

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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Antcliff » Sun Mar 24, 2013 1:19 pm

Thanks Lake!
Interesting person indeed.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by oggiesnr » Wed Oct 30, 2013 7:12 am

I like this one, my only slight reservation is that second line. Although not exact I think I prefer "Death to flowers" or "Cold to flowers" with the impression of winter as the destroyer and cleaner of nature preparing for the rebirth of the spring.

There is also the ring of the biblical story of Solomon and the Lily or as the Irish song Prab San Ol puts it -

King Solomon's glory, so famed in story
Was far outshone by the lily's guise.
But hard winds harden both field and garden
Pleading for pardon, the lily dies.

Steve

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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by twoleftfeet » Sun Nov 03, 2013 2:04 pm

Hi, Lake

Late to this one.

I'm having difficulties with this line:

The shadow of a withered twig, slim as a wisp of blue smoke,
drags a stroke before the afternoon window;


I'm not exactly brimming with suggestions, but I think "drag" is too active, too physical.
While "before" suggests "in front of".
Also, is there an implication that the shadow is moving with the wind, or (in slow-motion) with the changing position
of the sun?

Maybe something like -
The shadow of a withered twig, slim as a wisp of blue smoke,
is a brushstroke across the afternoon window
?

Regards
Geoff
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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Lake » Sun Nov 03, 2013 8:55 pm

Hi Steve,

Thank you for the visit. Now you brought up the same question Seth had before. Honestly, I've never totally understood it. After reading your rendition, I went back to read the original again and had a slightly different interpretation - Could "cold" mean "the cold" or "the coldness" is like flowers? Since in the next line it compares flowers with winter (cold). Does it make sense?

I like the story of Solomon and the Lily you quoted.

Glad to see you again.

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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Antcliff » Sun Nov 03, 2013 9:03 pm

Could "cold" mean "the cold" or "the coldness" is like flowers? Since in the next line it compares flowers with winter (cold). Does it make sense?
Ah. :D Yes, yes! Now you say it, Lake, I see it. Winter has its purpose, its cold is like the flowers (that is, with a certain kind of purpose).

Seth
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Lake » Sun Nov 03, 2013 9:19 pm

Thank goodness! This one was posted before my computer crashed. Or it would have lost like my other works.
twoleftfeet wrote:
I'm having difficulties with this line:

The shadow of a withered twig, slim as a wisp of blue smoke,
drags a stroke before the afternoon window;
Me, too. :)
twoleftfeet wrote: but I think "drag" is too active, too physical.
While "before" suggests "in front of".
Agree. Once I read your comment on “before”, I thought about "across".
twoleftfeet wrote:Also, is there an implication that the shadow is moving with the wind, or (in slow-motion) with the changing position
of the sun?
Yes, exactly.
twoleftfeet wrote:Maybe something like -
The shadow of a withered twig, slim as a wisp of blue smoke,
is a brushstroke across the afternoon window
?
Very good suggestion. But I hate to loose an action verb. “is” feels stative.

Will "move" or "pull" work?

Thank you very much for your thoughts and suggestion on this.

Lake
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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by twoleftfeet » Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:07 pm

Lake wrote:
twoleftfeet wrote:Also, is there an implication that the shadow is moving with the wind, or (in slow-motion) with the changing position
of the sun?
Yes, exactly.
twoleftfeet wrote:Maybe something like -
The shadow of a withered twig, slim as a wisp of blue smoke,
is a brushstroke across the afternoon window
?
Very good suggestion. But I hate to loose an action verb. “is” feels stative.

Will "move" or "pull" work?

Lake
You're probably right, Lake - a verb is preferable.

Initially I was thinking of "drag" purely in terms of movement and effort, as in dragging logs.
Now I'm thinking it might imply moving slowly as the angle of the sun changes.

Perhaps -
The shadow of a withered twig, slim as a wisp of blue smoke,
is a brushstroke angling across the afternoon window
?

I wonder also if you could move L6 so as to give this:

Winter has its purpose in coming,
cold as flowers ——
flowers have fragrance, winter a handful of memories.
In the cold, the sunlight becomes dim, slanting gradually.
It draws the shadow of a withered twig, slim as a wisp of blue smoke,
across the afternoon window---
It’s just like that
as if waiting for the guest to talk
I sip tea quietly in silence.


Is winter the guest?

Great poem

Geoff
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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by oggiesnr » Sun Nov 03, 2013 11:00 pm

Thank you for the visit. Now you brought up the same question Seth had before. Honestly, I've never totally understood it. After reading your rendition, I went back to read the original again and had a slightly different interpretation - Could "cold" mean "the cold" or "the coldness" is like flowers? Since in the next line it compares flowers with winter (cold). Does it make sense?
It makes sense but also opens a whole new can of worms. Is there a connection between the flow of the seasons (Life/Renewal/Spring, Growth/Summer, Decay/Autumn, Winter/Death/Cleansing) and the life cycle of the flower. The two elements become the macro (winter) and the micro (flower) part of the implied whole.

I have to admit this is where my lack of knowledge of the original figures of the script lets me down (I'm in the Auden school of translation) and I wonder if there are elements in the make up of the characters that express this duality more subtly than it's possible to do in translation to a western script.

Steve

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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Lake » Mon Nov 04, 2013 8:01 pm

twoleftfeet wrote:
Lake wrote:
I wonder also if you could move L6 so as to give this:

Winter has its purpose in coming,
cold as flowers ——
flowers have fragrance, winter a handful of memories.
In the cold, the sunlight becomes dim, slanting gradually.
It draws the shadow of a withered twig, slim as a wisp of blue smoke,
across the afternoon window---
It’s just like that
as if waiting for the guest to talk
I sip tea quietly in silence.


Is winter the guest?
Very acceptalbe version, makes it much more clear. Where is my favorite "brushstroke"? But I guess it is implied by "draws"?

I don't know who the guest is. It can be anyone.

Thanks much, Geoff!
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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Lake » Mon Nov 04, 2013 8:22 pm

oggiesnr wrote:It makes sense but also opens a whole new can of worms. Is there a connection between the flow of the seasons (Life/Renewal/Spring, Growth/Summer, Decay/Autumn, Winter/Death/Cleansing) and the life cycle of the flower. The two elements become the macro (winter) and the micro (flower) part of the implied whole.

I have to admit this is where my lack of knowledge of the original figures of the script lets me down (I'm in the Auden school of translation) and I wonder if there are elements in the make up of the characters that express this duality more subtly than it's possible to do in translation to a western script.

Steve
Thanks again, Steve.

Now I see how you put it as "Death to flowers" or "Cold to flowers", with a bigger picture in mind.
I think I just translate, but not explain it. Is it a right approach? I know you have to understand it before you translate. I read some of her biography and learned her health was very poor, especially in winter. She stayed indoors most of the winter and didn't even know if she could survive the severe weather.

What is Auden school of translation? I am interested in it.

I'll think more of your words.

Best,
Lake
Last edited by Lake on Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by twoleftfeet » Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:28 pm

Lake wrote:
twoleftfeet wrote:
Lake wrote:
I wonder also if you could move L6 so as to give this:

Winter has its purpose in coming,
cold as flowers ——
flowers have fragrance, winter a handful of memories.
In the cold, the sunlight becomes dim, slanting gradually.
It draws the shadow of a withered twig, slim as a wisp of blue smoke,
across the afternoon window---
It’s just like that
as if waiting for the guest to talk
I sip tea quietly in silence.


Is winter the guest?
Very acceptalbe version, makes it much more clear. Where is my favorite "brushstroke"? But I guess it is implied by "draws"?

I don't know who the guest is. It can be anyone.

Thanks much, Geoff!
Yes, I think "draws" works really well, implying both "drawing/painting" &/or "pulling".

Another thought - is it

It’s just like that
as if waiting for the guest to talk.
I sip tea quietly in silence


or is it

It’s just like that
I sip tea quietly in silence
as if waiting for the guest to talk
?

Geoff
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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Lake » Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:09 pm

twoleftfeet wrote:
Lake wrote:Another thought - is it

It’s just like that
as if waiting for the guest to talk.
I sip tea quietly in silence


or is it

It’s just like that
I sip tea quietly in silence
as if waiting for the guest to talk
?
Hello Geoff!

The first version is the exact sentence order in the original.
While the second one perhaps is what you think how it should be read. :)
I'll rearrange the lines with your suggestions and post it below.

Winter has its purpose in coming,
cold as flowers ——
flowers have fragrance, winter a handful of memories.
In the cold, the sunlight becomes dim, slanting gradually.
It draws the shadow of a withered twig, slim as a wisp of blue smoke,
across the afternoon window---
It’s just like that
I sip tea quietly in silence
as if waiting for the guest to talk.

Does it read better?

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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by twoleftfeet » Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:18 pm

Hi, Lake

It reads better as far as I'm concerned, but I was wondering if it changes the meaning?

Is it (paraphrasing) "The sun is doing its thing. 'I'm sitting drinking tea, waiting for the guest to talk" or

"The sun is doing its thing, as if waiting for the guest to talk. I (the guest?) sit drinking tea, but still not talking" ?

Hmmm..

Geoff
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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by Lake » Tue Nov 05, 2013 6:43 pm

twoleftfeet wrote:Hi, Lake

Is it (paraphrasing) "The sun is doing its thing. 'I'm sitting drinking tea, waiting for the guest to talk" or

"The sun is doing its thing, as if waiting for the guest to talk. I (the guest?) sit drinking tea, but still not talking" ?
Hi Geoff,

Your questions make me suspect if I quite understand the poem I translated. :)
My understanding was the first one. Then your second paraphrase makes sense, too.

bewildered
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Re: Sitting Silently

Post by oggiesnr » Tue Nov 05, 2013 7:19 pm

Lake wrote:
What is Auden school of translation? I am interested in it.
We know that one of the difficulties facing any translator is the potential conflict between form and meaning and poetry. It is also apparent in the cultural nuances within poems. So does one stick to the form, line order, length etc or does the translator go for the meaning and what happens when there is a conflict between the to. Likewise what happens when the translation becomes clunky in it's literal form and loses the beauty or elegance of the original.

Auden's knowledge of some of the languages he translated from is open to debate but his approach seems to have been to render the translation as poetical rather than precise, in other words to go with the meaning of the poem rather than the form. This can lead to criticism that the translation is inaccurate, however there may also be times when it is the only approach possible to render a poem. In an ideal world it would be possible to do both at all times the reality is that some things don't translate exactly in such a way that the nuance of the original.

For example IN T S Eliot's "A Cooking Egg" the author will "not want" various items. There is a duality about the word "want" in English that does not exist in many other languages. So it becomes the age old problem (it was also the reason for my comment about the characters of the original, was there a duality that existed in the original which wouldn't translate).

Anyway, none of this will be new but it means that when I translate I don't always stick to the original as closely as maybe I should but I'm trying to create the feel of the poem in a way that reads as a poem rather than a literal rendition of the words.

Sorry for the rambling :)

Steve

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