Test Your Translation Skill - Part I
Here's a Chinese lyrical poem with its literal meaning. See how you fare your translation against a "professional" translation. You will be surprised how wrong/misleading it can be! Why? I shall present mine later after you all have at least a stab at it.
虞 美 人 - 李煜
Yu beautiful person - Li Yu
春 花 秋 月 何 時 了
Spring flower autumn moon what time finish?
往 事 知 多 少
Past events know many few
小 樓 昨 夜 又 東 風
Small tower last night again east wind
故 國 不 堪 回 首 月 明 中
Old country not endure return head moon bright inside
雕 欄 玉 砌 應 猶 在
Carve balustrade marble steps ought still remain
只 是 朱 顏 改
only is red face change
問 君 能 有 幾 多 愁
ask gentleman/lord can have some many sorrow?
恰 似 一 江 春 水 向 東 流
Just/exactly like one river spring water facing east flow
Here's one "professional" western translation.
Oh when will autumn moon and spring flowers end?
How many past events I've known.
The east wind buffeted my room again last night,
I cannot bear to remember the bright moon of the old country.
The marble steps and carved balustrades must still be there,
The people's rosy cheeks are all that's changed.
How much sorrow can one man have to bear?
As much as a river of spring water flowing east.
One of my favorite Chinese poem.:)
In the moon my collapsed kingdom haunted about in my mind.
In the moon I cannot bear to remember my collapsed kingdom.
朱颜，既可以指作者自己(人)，又可以指雕栏玉砌(物)。It is hard to translate it to be beautiful as it is.:p
To the Tune of Yu Mei Ren
There is no end to moonlit autumns or flowery springs,
And I have known so very many things.
From my turret the wind was in the east again last night.
A lost land was too much to bear: I turned from the moonlight.
The cavern rail and jadework wall are as they were before:
Those rosy cheeks alone are there no more.
Tell me, what is the uttermost extent of pain, you say?
Mine is a river swollen in spring and welling east away.
Great! Thanks for your input. Your got the meaning but needs more polishing :) I shall be putting my version later in the week. It will be a lengthy essay in which it needs another entry. Will keep you all informed :)
Haru, you should give yourself more slack. This version of yours is one of those "professional" translation that is not quite true to technical requirements of translation and also not to the true intent of the poet. However, I do like the word "turret" but the image invoke is solely western. I still prefer the generic "tower".
Haru, thanks for including those 3 versions. This shows that you cannot believe in all that are posted on the internet. I would like you to comment when my version is posted. If you disagree, please give your opinions. This group is for learning the finer points of English and Chinese through poetry.
I just hope that more people will join in this delightful foray. :)
haha, Li Yu is one of my favourite poets.
Yes, he failed as a ruler but succeeded as a poet. Sung Hui Tsung also failed as a ruler but though talented in the arts is better known for his humilation under the Jin.
My version. If you want to know why it was translated this way, see
Oh when did the spring flowers leave?
When did the autumn moon fade away?
Of events past, I knew too much.
Again, once more the east wind visited my small tower abode last night.
My country of old, no longer can I bear, I yearn for the brightness in the moon of yore.
Carved balustrades and steps of jade ought to remain the same.
Only the erubescence had changed.
My Lord, how much sorrow can you endure?
Exactly as much as thawed waters of a spring river flowing east.
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