Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Translated any poems lately? If so, then why not post them here?
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dedalus
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Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by dedalus » Sat Jan 18, 2014 6:39 am

風吹柳花滿店香, 吳姬壓酒喚客嘗;
金陵子弟來相送, 欲行不行各盡觴。
請君試問東流水, 別意與之誰短長?

Willow-blossom fragrance drifts into the shop
as a girl from Wu pours wine, calls on me to share
with brothers and friends who have come to see me off,
and as they drain their cups I say to each,
go now and ask the east-flowing river
if it flows any farther than our feelings?

--------------------------------------------

Again, this is a very risky translation thanks to the enormous gullies and gaps between classical Chinese (well, 8th century AD) and modern English. The main emotion that comes through quite clearly in spite of the conventions of the time is that the poet is deeply attached to his companions and he's going to miss them terribly as he sets off on his travels.

Incidentally (where is my mind today?), the poem was written by Li Po/ Li Bai. Some information follows below:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_Bai
Last edited by dedalus on Mon Feb 24, 2014 6:09 am, edited 7 times in total.

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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by Antcliff » Sat Jan 18, 2014 11:24 pm

Enjoyed it Bren.

Delete "my" in "my bothers"?
Should it be "brothers"?

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

dedalus
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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by dedalus » Sun Jan 19, 2014 1:20 am

Thanks, Seth. The Chinese character "弟" literally refers to 'younger brother', but there is no indication of singular or plural.
Cheers, Bren

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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by Lake » Mon Jan 20, 2014 4:40 am

Hi dedalus,

Always enjoy reading your translation. It's always nice to see how others interpret a poem and put it in another language.
I can only offer some literal meanings on certain words or phrases.

Here ""弟" is used together with "子" as "子弟" which has a general meaning of "younger generation". So young friends or friends will work.

The last line
if it flows any faster than our feelings?
I wonder if the word "faster" should be "farther". Because I would paraphrase the line as:

go and ask the east-flowing river
which is longer, the river or the farewell feelings?

It is just a paraphrase, but does it make sense?

Lake
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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by dedalus » Mon Jan 20, 2014 6:36 am

Dear Lake,

Many thanks for your input which is always welcome.

Point 1. I had 'companions', originally, but decided to keep closer to the text.
Point 2. I knew it was longer or farther but substituted faster - the image reads so much better - in the hopes (I said it was risky!) of not being caught. Well, it was a fair catch and I should have known that if anyone would pick up on it , it would be you!!

Best wishes,
Brendan

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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by David » Tue Jan 21, 2014 5:55 pm

Lovely mood to this, Bren. Of course Lake must be right about the faster / farther question, but I agree with you that "faster" seems to work better as an image in English.

Just wondering about their swallowing their cups, which sounds like rather ostrich-like behaviour. Could they drain them?

A very nice thing as it is, though.

Cheers

David

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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by Antcliff » Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:30 pm

David wrote:Of course Lake must be right about the faster / farther question, but I agree with you that "faster" seems to work better as an image in English.
Actually I prefer the "farther". Poetry, eh. :lol:

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

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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by twoleftfeet » Wed Jan 22, 2014 12:53 pm

very much enjoyed, Bren.

The debate over "faster" vs "longer" is interesting. The river, to me, is a metaphor for something that never ends, in the sense that it never stops flowing so I would vote for "longer/farther", although I'm guessing that the sense might be
"which will end the soonest"?

Geoff
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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by dedalus » Wed Jan 22, 2014 11:47 pm

Dear All,

Im holding off on the faster/farther question for the moment as I believe that faster implies more of a sense of urgency and is closer to the tone of the poem. But the matter of accuracy still remains and carries a whiff of Umberto Eco's accusation "Traduttore, tradittore" or “Translator, traitor”.

I agree with David, though, that swallowing the cups as well as the wine inside them was not what was intended!

B.

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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by Lake » Thu Jan 23, 2014 5:51 pm

Hi Brendan,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this translation. It confirms that you didn't misunderstand but tried to find a better expression (English way) to convey the meaning.

Best,
Lake
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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by Lake » Thu Jan 23, 2014 6:09 pm

David wrote: Of course Lake must be right about the faster / farther question, but I agree with you that "faster" seems to work better as an image in English.
Hi David,

Don't be too confident about my interpretation as this is an ancient poem that I need some commentaries to better understand, same as people read Chaucer.

Re "river flows faster", I can view the image, but I had hard time relating it to the feelings that his friends wanted him to stay and he was reluctant to leave.

You are right about the "drain", each who is to stay or who is to leave empties his cup.

Regards,

Lake
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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by Lake » Thu Jan 23, 2014 6:31 pm

Seth,

Farther, eh? :D
twoleftfeet wrote: The river, to me, is a metaphor for something that never ends, in the sense that it never stops flowing so I would vote for "longer/farther", although I'm guessing that the sense might be
"which will end the soonest"?
Well said, Geoff! The love, friendship like the everlasting river continues forever.

Re " the soonest", in fact, in the last line "別意與之誰短長" there is such a word 短"short" and 長"long".
which is shorter, which is longer? :D

Thanks,
Lake
Aim, then, to be aimless.
Seek neither publication, nor acclaim:
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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by dedalus » Sun Jan 26, 2014 3:13 am

OK, having slept on it several times, accuracy ("farther") wins.

Incidentally, many thanks to all who have taken part in this discussion, as your comments and suggestions have been of enormous help. Translation can be a rather queer business, particularly when one is working from obscure or non-European texts, but there is a need - in fact, a responsibility - to stay as close to the original as possible while attempting to render it as "readable" or even "pleasantly readable" as possible. Five revisions later, I have finally conceded the faster/farther point (all thanks to Lake for bringing it up in the first place ) and the version we can now read above is about as close to the original Li Po poem as I/we can come. I would even venture to believe it is as close, or closer, than anybody has come for quite some time!

Go raibh maith agat!
(many thanks, again, in Irish)
Bren

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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by David » Mon Jan 27, 2014 6:51 pm

She dty vea!

It's a very nice thing, anyway.

Cheers

David

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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by dedalus » Tue Jan 28, 2014 7:04 am

Daithí a chara,

What is this "anyway", anyway?

I'm thinking of doing another longer poem from this fella: 1200 years ago but I can see inside his head (a little bit). Trouble is, a load of new stuff keeps coming down and I go chasing after it. Glad you enjoyed 'Broken Homes'. There seems to be more on the way.

One day the visions and stories will stop. What then?

Slán anois,
Bren

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Re: Parting at a wine shop in Nanking

Post by oggiesnr » Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:11 pm

I'm considering this but as a first shot I'm always amazed by how resonances I know from songs in the UK reappear. In this case this is one of the stanzas from "The Parting Glass" which I think has the same kind of feel.

Of all the comrades that e'er I had
They are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e'er I had
They would wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I'll gently rise and I'll softly call
Good night and joy be with you all

Steve

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