Tang Poems in Literal Translation
唐诗直译


Yutang Lin
林钰堂

 

Foreword

Ancient Chinese poems are very succinct, and each line in a poem consists of only 5 or 7 words. Hence, it is not easy to comprehend and appreciate their beauty unless one is well versed in classical Chinese. In 2009 I chose a few poems from the Tang Dynasty that I like very much and first paraphrased them into prose style, and then translated my version into English for more people to share their beauty. The resulting booklet is called ″Tang Poems in New Style,″ and it has been offered at our websites. Since then I came up with the idea that, now that people can comprehend the contents of those poems, will it be feasible and sensible to translate those original poems literally so that people may also have a sense of how succinct the ancient Chinese styles are? Of course, a literal translation will yield lines with some ″broken″ English; nevertheless, it might be interesting to see that English could also be so succinctly employed. To me personally it is also a challenge to see if I can accomplish such a task. In this collection of the original 9 poems that I had chosen in 2009, I offer results of my humble attempt at presenting a literal translation in English. Upon completion of this work, I think that this literal version might convey a sense of stylish simplicity to the readers.

October 23, 2016
El Cerrito, California

 

枫桥夜泊  张继

月落乌啼霜满天,江枫渔火对愁眠。
姑苏城外寒山寺,夜半钟声到客船。

Floating Night at Maple Bridge
Zhang Ji

Moon descending crows cawing frost filled sky
River maples fishing fires sleeping facing worries
Gusu city outskirt Hanshan temple
Midnight bell tolls reached guest boat

 

望月怀远 张九龄

海上生明月,天涯共此时。
情人怨遥夜,竟夕起相思。
灭烛怜光满,披衣觉露滋。
不堪盈手赠,还寝梦佳期。

Looking at Moon in Missing from afar
Zhang Jiu Ling

Above ocean bright moon arise
At corners of sky this moment shared
Lovers hate distant night
Whole night awoke in mutual yearning
Extinguish candle for pervading light
Garment clad sensed dews increased
Incapable of scooping up some for you
Back to sleep to dream of good time

 

题破山寺后禅院  常建

清晨入古寺,初日照高林,
曲径通幽处,禅房花木深。
山光悦鸟性,潭影空人心;
万籁此俱寂,但馀钟磬声。

Chan Hut behind Split Mount Monastery
Chang Jian

Early morning entered ancient monastery
Rising sun shined at trees high
Winding path led to tranquil place
Chan hut in deep flowers and bushes
Mountain lights pleased birds′ nature
Pond images emptied people’s minds
Myriad sounds here all silenced
Only bell and qing sounds remained

 

听蜀僧濬弹琴  李白

蜀僧抱绿绮,西下峨眉峰;
为我一挥手,如听万壑松。
客心洗流水,馀响入霜钟;
不觉碧山暮,秋云暗几重。

Listening to Shu Monk Rui′s Playing of Qin
Li Bai

Shu monk holding Lyuqi
Came down west of Peak Emei
For me his hands waved
As if listening to pines in myriad valleys
Guest′s mind washed by flowing water
Lingering resonances entered frosty bell tolls
Unaware of green mountains turned dusk
Autumn clouds darkened several layers

 

春望  杜甫

国破山河在,城春草木深;
感时花溅泪,恨别鸟惊心。
烽火连三月,家书抵万金;
白头搔更短,浑欲不胜簪。

Looking afar in Spring
Du Fu

Country broken mountains and rivers remain
City in spring grasses and woods deep
Sentiments of this time flowers shed tears
Anguish of separation birds startle mind
Alarming fires set repeatedly in March
Letters from home worth thousands in gold
White hairs shortened by head scratching
Almost cannot uphold the hairpin

 

旅夜书怀  杜甫

细草微风岸,危樯独夜舟;
星垂平野阔,月涌大江流。
名岂文章着?官应老病休;
飘飘何所似?天地一沙鸥!

Sentiments Recorded at Night during Travel
Du Fu

Fine grasses and gentle breezes on banks
Tall mast on boat at lonely night
Stars lowered flat wilderness wide
Moon emerged in currents of big river
How could fame be generated by writings
Official position should be resigned in sickness and old age
Floating here and there resembles what
One sand gull between sky and earth

 

山居秋暝  王维

空山新雨后,天气晚来秋;
明月松间照,清泉石上流。
竹喧归浣女,莲动下渔舟;
随意春芳歇,王孙自可留。

Autumn Dusk at Hill Residence
Wang Wei

Empty mountain after new rain
Weather autumn as evening approaches
Bright moon shines through pines
Clear spring flows over rocks
Uproars in bamboos are girls back from laundry
Moving lotuses are caused by launching fishing boats
Spring fragrances resting at will
Leisure guests naturally may stay as well

 

酬张少府  王维

晚年惟好静,万事不关心;
自顾无长策,空知返旧林。
松风吹解带,山月照弹琴;
君问穷通理,渔歌入浦深。

 

In Reply to County Sheriff Zhang

Wang Wei

 

In old age only prefer tranquility
All matters are none of my concern
Seeing that I have no good plans
Vainly know to return to old forest
Pine breezes blow my belt loose
Mountain moon shines on playing qin
You ask about reasons for ups and downs
Fisherman′s singing is deep into the banks

 

过香积寺  王维

不知香积寺,数里入云峰;
古木无人径,深山何处钟?
泉声咽危石,日色冷青松;
薄暮空潭曲,安禅制毒龙。

Passing by Xiang Ji Monastery
Wang Wei

Not knowing Xiang Ji Monastery is
How many miles into the cloudy peaks
Ancient woods without human trails
In deep mountains where is the bell
Sounds of spring murmuring over tall boulders
Color of sun cold in green pines
Approaching dusk empties melodies around pond
Abiding in meditation pacifies dragons of poisons

 

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