Overnight at the governor's residence (Du Fu)

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Overnight at the governor's residence (Du Fu)

Postby dedalus » Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:58 am

7-character, regular verse:

清秋幕府井梧寒, 獨宿江城蠟炬殘。
永夜角聲悲自語, 中天月色好誰看?
風塵荏苒音書絕, 關塞蕭條行陸難。
已忍伶俜十年事, 強移棲息一枝安。

Clear and cold is this autumn night with parasol trees in the courtyard.
Alone in this river town, I watch the flame of a guttering candle.
From the dark outside comes the plaintive note of a bugle,
and though the moon is in mid-heaven, is there no-one to share with me?
My messengers are scattered amid clouds of rain and sand
and the city gates are closed to the traveller: high mountains are walls in my way.
I, who have borne the last ten years of pitiable existence,
find here a perch, a little branch, and feel safe for the night.

(a non-precise rather cavalier translation which needs an extra line co contain the limpid Chinese, but the essence is there.)

Du Fu, 712-770
Last edited by dedalus on Sun Nov 10, 2013 7:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Overnight at the governor's residence (Du Fu)

Postby twoleftfeet » Sun Jul 14, 2013 3:14 pm

This reads really well, Brendan.

What is meant by "messengers" ?

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Re: Overnight at the governor's residence (Du Fu)

Postby dedalus » Wed Jul 17, 2013 7:00 am

Well spotted. People are inferred by the action, but who are they ? Friends or enemies would have been mentioned, one supposes. Companions, servants, acquaintances.... messengers? I don't know!
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Re: Overnight at the governor's residence (Du Fu)

Postby Lake » Thu Aug 01, 2013 1:25 pm

Nice to read your translation, dedalus.

"messengers", I think it means during the war time, the poet could not settle down and received no letters, news from his friends and relatives.
Aim, then, to be aimless.
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Submit without submitting.

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Re: Overnight at the governor's residence (Du Fu)

Postby Lake » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:43 pm

I just came across this translation by Kenneth Rexroth. I think it is the same poem.

I PASS THE NIGHT AT GENERAL HEADQUATERS

A clear night in harvest time.
In the courtyard at headquaters
The wu-tung trees grow cold.
In the city by the river
I wake alone by a guttering
Candle. All night long bugle
Calls distrub my thought. The splendor
Of the moonlight floods the sky.
Who bothers to look at it?
Whirlwinds of dust, I cannot write.
The frontier pass is unguarded.
It is dangerous to travel.
Ten years wandering, sick at heart.
I perch here like a bird on a
Twig, thankful for a moment's peace.

He explains in his intruduction that he's taken note of other's prose translations and literal rendering, discussed with his chinese friends. In some cases these translations are very free, in others as exact as possible, depending on how he felt in relation to the particular poem at the time...he usually translated from other Western languages, ... sometimes more literal, more often freer, ... He hopes in all cases they are true to the spirit of the originals, and valid English poems.

I can tell this one is indeed free, no form, no rhyme (hard to do in another language), some of the meanings are off, but it does convey some feelings.
Aim, then, to be aimless.
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Submit without submitting.

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Re: Overnight at the governor's residence (Du Fu)

Postby twoleftfeet » Thu Nov 07, 2013 11:55 am

Thanks, Lake.
Which meanings are "off"? Surely that is unforgivable in a translation?


Also - thinking again about "messengers" - would "agents" be a reasonable alternative?

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Re: Overnight at the governor's residence (Du Fu)

Postby Lake » Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:48 pm

Hi Geoff,

I feel uncomfortable to nit-pick others' translations since I don't think I can do better than them.

As I read more and more western translations, I find there is a similarity between the western translations and the traditional Chinese painting whose aesthetic concept is to stand between "likeness" and "unlikeness' or "similar" and "dissimilar". That is how I feel reading the western translations - I get something similar, but not exact.

Back to this poem (don't assume that I can comprehend it 100% without reading commentaries by the scholars in this area :) )

In the first line, I think "井"(well, does the word look like a "well"?) is omitted in translation. I would read it as wutong tree by the well grows sparse and cold. Maybe there is too much information in this 7 character line, the translator has to weigh what needs to be taken out.

"Messenger", good catch on that. I read the line as during the time of hardship and turmoil, the speaker received no letters, news from his friends and family members. "whirlwinds of dust" is too much of literal translation.

"The frontier pass is unguarded", I didn't read the gate is closed or unguarded, but the frontier pass is in a state of desolation and depression.

So much for now. As long as the translation gets the essence and spirit, don't even mention the form, the tone and the rhyme.

Lake
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Re: Overnight at the governor's residence (Du Fu)

Postby dedalus » Sun Nov 10, 2013 3:10 am

I liked the Kenneth Rexroth translation very much. It is unquestionably the same poem!
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