04 January 2018

李叔同 (弘一大師) Li Shutong (Grand Master Hong Yi) : 送別 Farewell

POSTSCRIPT (8.1.2018):  I have inserted the following links to versions of the song (American, Japanese, Chinese and Korean) to get you interested:-

(1) American song "Dreaming of Home and Mother"
(2) Japanese song 旅愁 "Traveller's Sorrows"
(3) Chinese song 送別 "Farewell"
(4) Korean song "Yo Soo"

ORIGINAL POST (4.1.2018):  The song 送別 "Song Bie" or "Farewell", in itself a great long-short-lined poem, was written in the early years of Republican China (1915) by 李叔同 Li Shutong as lyrics to the "melody" of the 1851 American song by John P. Ordway "Dreaming of Home and Mother" as modified by 犬童球溪 Inudou Kyuukei in his 1904 Japanese song 旅愁 "Ryosho" or "Traveller's Sorrows".  (More on the modifications in my notes on the "Origins" and the "Music".)

Although largely forgotten in America, the melody had become so popular in Japan, China and Korea that I had learned to sing 送別 as a child and had always wished to translate this Chinese poem into "sing-able" English .  This I have now done.  Please enjoy it. 

Li Shutong (Grand Master Hong Yi) (1880-1942): Farewell

1   The pavilion’s side,  
1a  Where the old road lies,
2   Sweet grass, so blue, they touch the skies.
3   Eve winds stroke willows, the pipe’s waning trills, 
4   The sun sets over hills and hills.

5   The verge of the skies,
5a  Lands’ end or beyond,
6   Dear friends half scattered, withered, gone.
7   A ladle of rough wine, what’s left of joy, we drain;
8   Parted, tonight, lorn dreams in vain.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
29 November 2017 (revised 27.12.17)
Translated from the original - 李叔同(弘一大師): 送別

1   長亭外
1a  古道邊
2   芳草碧連天
3   晚風拂柳笛聲殘
4   夕陽山外山

5   天之涯
5a  地之角
6   知交半零落
7   一瓢濁酒盡餘歡
8   今宵別夢寒


*Origins:  This poem by Li Shutong 李叔同 (1880-1942) was written as lyrics to the melody of the 1851 American song “Dreaming of Home and Mother” (published 1868), music and lyrics both written by John P. Ordway (1824-1880).  The melody, now still highly popular in East Asia (Japan, China and Korea) but largely forgotten in America, first gained popularity in Japan when in 1904 the Japanese musician 犬童球溪 Inudou Kyuukei (1879-1943) wrote and published his lyrics 旅愁 "Ryosho" or “Traveller’s Sorrows” set to this American melody which he slightly but, in my view, significantly modified.  (More on this in my note on the “Music” below.)  It is likely that Li Shutong who was studying in Japan during 1905-1910, heard the song by chance and was so moved by the modified melody of this song that in 1915 he wrote 送別 “Farewell” as the Chinese lyrics.  Since then, additional stanzas have emerged which, in my view, were not the work of Li.  The earliest published version of Li’s 送別 “Farewell” I can find is in a collection of 50 famous songs in Chinese 中文名歌五十曲 (上海開明書店) published in 1927 which was edited  by Li’s student, the famed painter Feng Zikai 豐子愷 (1898-1975) (together with Qiu Menghen 裘夢痕) which features substantively only 2 stanzas with the first stanza repeated as a third stanza.  Feng personally copied the lyrics of this and all other songs in the collection and provided some of his paintings for illustration.  Following Feng’s version, I have in line 5a adopted (not ) 之角, and in line 7, 一瓢 (not 觚   or ) 濁酒 as being Li’s original words.

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The form of the poem is that of the long-short-line verse or “ci”, though not set to any classical Chinese tune.  The four 3-character lines (1, 1a, 5 and 5a) are rendered in dimeter (2 beats), the two 7-character lines (3 and 7) in pentameter (5 beats), and the four 5-character lines (2, 4, 6 and 8) in tetrameter (4 beats).  The rhyme scheme is XAABB, XCCDD as in the original: “lies(1a)-skies(2)”, “trills(3)-hills(4)” and “drain(7)-vain(8), being full rhymes, and “beyond(5a)-gone(6)”, being an assonantal half rhyme.

*Lines 1 and 1a:  I have taken the 2 lines to mean: Outside the pavilion, along the old road” and have rendered them as “The pavilion’s side, Where the old road lies”.  (long) is implied in the rather larger structure called “pavilion” and is not translated.

*Line 2:  芳草 is translated literally as “Sweet grass”.  (emerald) is rendered as “so blue”, (after considering “so green”) to produce a better connection to the blue skies.  I had originally rendered  (join, connect) as “reach” (after considering “touch” and “meet” and have now decided for "touch".

*Line 3:  晚風 and are translated literally as “Eve winds” and “willows”.  I had originally rendered  (caress, sweep) is as “touch” (after considering "kiss",  "caress" and "stroke",  and have now decided for "stroke".  (last, remaining, closing) is rendered as “waning”, (sound) as “trills”, and 聲殘 as “the pipe’s waning trills” after considering “the flute’s …”         

*Line 4:  山外山 (hills beyond hills) is rendered as “over hills and hills” after considering “beyond hills and hills”.

*Lines 5 and 5a:  I have taken lines 5 and 5a to mean: Far, far away, within the verge of the skies and the corners of the lands.  I have, therefore, rendered天之涯 (margin, limit) in line 5 as “The verge of the skies” and 地之角 (land’s corners) in line 5a as “Lands’ end”; and to this, I have added “or beyond” (not in the original) to create the “beyond(5a)-gone(6)” assonantal half rhyme and to introduce and reinforce the idea of dead friends implied in line 6. 

*Line 6:  知交 (intimate friends) is rendered as “My dear friends”, and (half) and零落 (withered, decayed, scattered) are rendered as “half scattered, withered, gone”.  I had originally penned “Friends of yore” or “Dear old friends”, but have found them one foot/beat too long for the line which should be in tetrameter (4 beats).

*Line 7:  一瓢 is translated literally as “A ladle”, 濁酒 (unstrained, unfiltered wine), as “rough wine”, and 盡餘歡 (exhaust remaining joy) as “what’s left of joy we drain”.

*Line 8:  今宵 is translated literally as “tonight”.  The word In 別夢寒should be taken to mean “parting”, and not “don’t” 不要, (e.g. Don’t dream cold dreams), nor “other” 別的, 其他 (e.g. Other dreams are cold).  This word should go with (dream) to form 別夢, to mean “dreams after parting”.  To make better sense of this line and its relationship with line 9 (farewell drinks at the pavilion), I have lifted the idea of parting rendered as “Parted” to begin the line, followed by “tonight”, then followed by “dreams” which are “cold”.  Although it can be translated as such, i.e. “cold dreams”, it should however be taken to refer to a feeling of coldness because of loneliness after the parting.  I have, therefore, rendered this idea of cold, lonely dreams as “lorn dreams” after considering “sad”, “lonely” and forlorn”.  To complete the line, I need to add a verb or a qualifier.  After considering perfect rhyme words such as “remain”, “pertain”, “obtain”, “in vain”, “in train”, “shall reign” and less than full rhyme words such as “await”, “pervade”, “hold sway”, “unchained”, “unreined”, I have decided for “in vain” for its ability to heighten the feeling of coldness or loneliness, this being the sense of the original.  The whole line now reads: “Parted, tonight, lorn dreams in vain.”

*Music:  In my note on the Origins above, I said when Inudou Kyuukei wrote the lyrics of 旅愁 “Ryosho” or “Traveller’s Sorrows” in 1904, he slightly but significantly modified the melody of John P. Ordway’s 1851 song of “Dreaming of Home and Mother” (published 1868).  I cannot confirm this with certainty as I have not seen Inudou’s music score published in or near 1904.  But I have heard ”Traveller’s Sorrows” sung in Japanese on the YouTube, and the modifications are evidently noticeable.  The same modifications appear in Li Shutong’s 1915 送別 “Song Bie” or “Farewell”.  In addition to having heard it sung in Chinese on the YouTube, I have also had sight of its music score in the 1927 Feng Zikai collection mentioned in my note on the Origins above.  The same probably also obtains in the Korean version entitled “Yo Soo”.  (I do not know Korean and am more than happy to be informed of its Korean history.)  I am no musician, but in my intuitive view, these slight but significant modifications have in effect turned an average western tune into a beautiful oriental melody -- which explains its lasting popularity in East Asia.

These significant modifications consist simply in deleting the penultimate note in bars 3+4, 7+8, 11+12, and 15+16, or lines 2, 4, 6 and 8 below (deleted notes in brackets, symbols “^” and “\” to stand for an octave higher and lower):-
Line 2:  So Do Re Mi Mi Re Do (Mi) Re
Line 4:  So So Re Mi Mi Fa Ti\ (Re) Do
Line 6:  La Ti Do^ Ti La So Mi Do (Mi) Re
Line 8:  So Re Mi Mi Fa Fa Ti\ (Re) Do
Briefly, “Do Mi Re” became “Do Re”, and “Ti\ Re Do” becomes “Ti\ Do”.  You may wish to visit the 2 links below:-

(1) Ordway's original melody:
There appears to be one further modification in Li’s 送別 as evidenced in a large number of music scores and YouTube recordings.  Bar 13 (or first half of line 7) which should be “So Mi Do Do Do^ Ti” in the Ordway melody, is rendered identical to bar 5 (or first half of line 3) and shown, played and sung as “So Mi So So Do^ Ti”.  I do not believe this was made either by Inudou or Li.  While I have never heard it (bar 13 of 旅愁) "wrongly" sung in Japanese as “So Mi So So Do^ Ti” and have sometimes heard it "properly" sung in Chinese as “So Mi Do Do Do^ Ti”, the more or less conclusive evidence that Li did not (hence, Inudou did not) make this modification lie in Li’s music score in Feng Zikai’s collection published as early as 1927 (unfortunately not earlier) which does not contain this modification.  I venture to suggest it may be a purposeful modification by singers and musicians, or may just be a careless mistake or misplay by singers and musicians.  Again, this awaits confirmation.  As I (again intuitively) find the original bar 13 superior, I have decided to properly use Ordway’s original “So Mi Do Do Do^ Ti” in the music score for the "Song" below.  

*Song:  The song “Farewell” by Li Shutong with its lyrics in both Chinese and English (the English being my translation of Li's lyrics) and its musical score in “Numbered Musical Notation” or 簡譜 “Jianpu” or "Simplified Notation" is given below.  In it, I have put down (1) the numbered musical notes (with “^” and ”\“ added for a higher or lower octave), (2) the key signature, (3) the time signature, (4) bar lines, (5) musical rests, but not (6) the length of notes and others e.g. (7) slurs, if any, as I do not have the software to do it on my computer.

Music : John P. Ordway (originally his song “Dreaming of Home and Mother) 
Lyrics : Li Shutong (Grand Master Hong Yi) 李叔同   (弘一大師)
Lyrics translated by 譯詞: Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 黃宏發

1=Eb 4/4

The pavilion’s side, Where the old road lies,
5      5  3 5         1^ -- |  6        6     6     1^    5 |
Sweet grass, so blue, they touch the skies.
5           1        2   3         3      2        1 |  2 -- 0 0 |
Eve winds stroke willows, the pipe’s waning trills,
5       3         5         1^  7 |    6    6           1^ 1^    5 -- |
The sun sets over hills and hills.
5      5      2    3 3     4      7\ | 1 – 0 0 |

The verge of the skies, Lands’ end or beyond,
6       6       1^ 1^  1^ -- |  7           7     6   7  1^ -- |
Dear friends half scattered, withered, gone.
6  7      1^        7       6  5            3  1 |      2 -- 0 0 |
A ladle of rough wine, what’s left of joy, we drain:
5   3   1 1    1^       7 |        6         6    6  1^   1^  5 -- |
Parted, tonight, lorn dreams in vain.
5      2     3 3          4     4           7\ | 1 -- 0 0 |

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 黃宏發

22 December 2017

Top 5 of the 10 Most Popular Tang Dynasty Poems in Hong Kong 香港最受歡迎十首唐詩之前五名

On 12 November 2017, I posted here "5 of the 10 Most Popular Tang Dynasty Poems in Hong Kong" (link), being my rendition of poems #6 to #10 on that list of 10.  To complete the list, I am giving you today my rendition of the top 5 poems.  Again, for my notes, please go to the links attached to the respective poems. 

FIFTH <#5> 第五名:樂游原    作者:李商隱

      Li Shangyin (813-858): Ascending the Pleasurable Plateau

      1 It’s late in the day, my heart’s not well at ease;

      2 To the ancient plateau, up, in a carriage I go.
      3 Sublime is the time while the sun is yet to set;
      4 Too soon, alas, is dusky darkness to follow.


FOURTH <#4> 第四名:登鸛雀樓    作者:王之渙

      Wang Zhihuan (688-742): Ascending the Stork Tower

      1  Over the mountains, the white sun daily sets,   
      2  And into the ocean, the Yellow River flows.
      3  Wishing to eye---the view of a thousand miles,   
      4  A floor, a floor more: up the stairs one goes.

這首詩將普通的登高望遠寫出了豪邁的氣勢,全是不僅形式優美,其中蘊含的進取精神更是讓後人動容。沈德唐詩別》中選錄這首詩時曾指出:四語皆對,讀來不嫌其排,骨高故也。” 有人將這首詩評為五絕之首。

THIRD <#3> 第三名:靜夜思    作者:李白

       Li Bai (701-762): Night Thoughts

       1  Before my bed, the moon shines bright;

       2  Be it frost aground? I suppose it might.
       3  I lift my head, the moon to behold, then
       4  Lower it, musing: I'm homesick tonight.


SECOND <#2> 第二名:清明    作者: 杜牧

       Du Mu (803-852): Qingming, Early April

‘Tis Qingming, early April, a season of mizzles and gloom
       2  Away from home, a wayfarer, faring into gloom and doom.
       3  O where can be found a tavern, my good lad, if I may ask? 
       4  There! points the herd-boy to a village where apricots bloom. 


FIRST <#1> 第一名:遊子吟    作者:孟郊
       Meng Jiao (751-814): Song of the Travelling Son - Written at Liyang on Mother's Arrival 

       1  Sewing-thread in hand, the loving mother;
       2  Clothes for the son to wear, her travelling son.
       3  On and on she sews, his leaving now nears;
       4  Stitch on stitch, she fears -- a delayed reunion.
       5  How shall my heart of a mere grass seedling, ever
       6  Repay the embracing rays of her ever spring sun!



06 December 2017

王梵志 Wang Fanzhi: 無題五言古詩(八行詩)/我昔未生時 Untitled 5-Character Octet/At a time before I came into being

Today I am posting another poem by Wang Fanzhi, most probably a precursor to the oft translated famed Buddhist poet monk 寒山 Hanshan or Cold Mountain.  Most of Wang's poem are 4-line quatrains..  This is a rare 8-line octet.  It is not in regulated verse, hence it can be classified as an ancient air 古風.  Here it is:-

Wang Fanzhi (592?-670?): Untitled 5-Character Octet/At a time before I came into being

1   At a time before I came into being,
2   I was in the dark and knew of nothing.
3   The heavenly lord just gave me life --
4   A life of what, for what, I’m asking!  

5   With nothing to wear, I feel so cold,
6   Nothing to eat, I'm hungry, starving.
7   Heavenly lord, repay what you owe me,
8   Revert and restore: my unborn being!

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者: 黃宏發
23rd February 2017
Translated from the original- 王梵志: 無題五言古詩(八行詩)/我昔未生時

1   我昔未生時
2   冥冥無所知
3   天公強生我
4   生我復何為

5   無衣使我寒
6   無食使我饑
7   還你天公我
8   還我未生時


*Form, Meter and Rhyme:  The original is a 5-character old style verse 五言古詩 which happens to be in 8 lines, and is not a 5-character regulated verse 五言律詩 (a new style verse近體詩) also of 8 lines by definition.  As I have said in the note to my rendition of Du Fu’s “Beholding the Mountain” (posted on 3 January 2107), I will in my renditions refer to both as “octets”.  This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 beats or feet) while the original is in 5-syllable lines.  The rhyme scheme is AAXA XAXA as in the original, although the “-ing”  half rhyme is less than satisfactory.

*Line 1:  I had originally penned “Some time ago, before my birth”, but have now decided for “At a time before I came into being” to fit the rhyme scheme.

*Line 2:  冥冥 is rendered as “in the dark”.

*Line 3:  天公 is rendered as “heavenly lord”.  (strong) in 強生 is understood as is used in 強加 (impose), 強令 (arbitrary order) and 強蠻 (arbitrary and arrogant, unreasoning) and is here rendered simply as “just”, while (born, birth) is rendered as “life” (thus, “just gave me life” for強生我) rather than “birth” to provide a link to line 4 which begins with 生我 “A life”.

*Line 4:  何為 is rendered as “for what”.  (again, also) is understood as equivalent to the more colloquial (again, also) which, in this context, is interpreted as a word “used for emphasis in negative sentences or rhetorical questions” (p. 1886, “New Age Chinese-English Dictionary”, Beijing: Commercial Press, 2004) and is, therefore, rendered as “I’m asking” to bring out the emphasis in this rhetorical question.  I have also added “of what” (not in the original) before “for what” to add to the emphasis.

*Line 7:  還你天公我 should be properly understood as 你天公還我 (you, heavenly lord, repay me) or better天公你還我 (heavenly lord, you repay me) and is rendered as “Heavenly lord, repay what you owe me” with “what you owe” added to fully convey the sense of 還債 (repay a debt = you owe me, you repay me).

*Line 8:  To translate the word repeated from line 7, I have used 2 words “revert” and “restore”, neither of which repeats the word “repay” used in line 7, but all 3 words begin with “re“.  This, I hope, adds to the urgency of the poet’s call.


12 November 2017

5 of the 10 Most Popular Tang Dynasty Poems in Hong Kong 香港最受歡迎十首唐詩之後五名

2 months ago (September 2017) I received a WhatsApp message from my friend John Lau informing me of the 10 most popular Tang dynasty poems in Hong Kong.  I found that I had already translated and posted 8 of them.  I immediately (October 2017) posted my yet to be posted translation of the #4 poem on the list, and proceeded to work on the remaining #7 poem on the list which is now (November 2017) done and posted.  My English rendition of these 10 most popular Tang dynasty poems are now further polished and attached below under the respective poems.  Links to the respective posts on my blog are also given below. Today, I am posting the second batch of 5 poems, #6 to #10.  For my notes, please go to the links.

10 Most Popular Tang Dynasty Poems in Hong Kong

最受歡迎的十首唐詩,第一名情理之中 但意料之外。
編者按: 唐詩是中國文化的瑰寶,雖然有 文無第一 的說法,但是自唐朝以來就沒有人放過唐詩,總有人給唐詩排    座次。雖然排名不可能符合每個人的口味,但也能在一定程度上反應唐詩的流傳程度。

TENTH <#10> 第十名:回鄉偶書    作者:賀知章

    He Zhizhang (659-744): Coming Home: Fortuitous Lines

    1  I left home young, now old, I return care free;
               2  My tongue unchanged, my hair though thinner be.
               3  Unknown am I to the boys and girls I meet,
               4   Smiling, they ask: “Sir, from whence come thee?


NINTH <#9> 第九名:早發白帝城    作者:李白

    Li Bai (701—762): Downstream to Jiangling/Early Departure from Baidi City

     1  At daybreak I left a Baidi enwrapped in clouds aglow,
     2  A thousand miles to Jiangling takes just a day to go.
     3  In the endless cries of monkeys on banks both left and right,
     4  I’ve skiffed past a myriad cliff-tops o’erhanging high or low.

西元759年,李白很鬱悶,他被牽連到一樁案 子裡面,這一次他去的地方是夜郎。可是當他趕赴夜郎的途中,得到了赦免的消息,一時間心情大振,寫下了這首詩。早晨從白帝城出發,到達了千里之外的江陵,只聽見兩岸的猿猴啼叫,不自不覺中已經過了萬重山。
EIGHTH <#8> 第八名:憫農    作者:李紳

    Li Shen (772-846): Pity the Peasants/Ancient Air, 2 of 2

    1  He heaves his hoe in the rice-field, under the noonday sun;
           2  Onto the soil of the rice-field, his streaming sweat beads run.
           3  Ah, do you or don’t you know it?  That bowl of rice we eat,
           4  Each grain, each ev’ry granule: the fruit of his labour done.

SEVENTH <#7> 第七名:賦得古原草送別    作者:白居易

    Bai Juyi (772-846):  Grass of the Ancient Prairie Bidding Farewell: Written to a Prescribed Title

    1  Lushly, O lushly, you grass of the prairie thrive;
    2  You die to arise, O each year, gloriously so!
    3  Wild fires do burn: they blaze in vain to purge you;
    4  As spring winds blow: come alive, again you grow.
    5  Your sweet scent spreads far, suffusing the old highway;
    6  Your green blades, sun bathed, to the citadel ruins go.
    7  Once more, I’m seeing my noble friend away --
    8  Cheers, O cheerio! Our parting feelings o’erflow.



SIXTH <#6> 第六名:春曉    作者:孟浩然

   Meng Haoran (689-740): A morning in Spring

    1  In spring I sleep unaware morning is here;

    2  From far and near, trilling songbirds I hear.
    3  In the night's pitter patter of wind and rain,
    4  How many flowers fallen?  Not few, I fear.