About this blog...
In July 2016 a friend introduced me to Andrew Wong's (黃宏發 ) blog "Classical Chinese Poems in English" (http://chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.sg/). It was in connection with some discussion he had with some friends concerning the poem by Yue Fei 岳飛: 滿江紅. Since then I have been visiting this blog and often couldn't resist having a go myself in translating a poem or two. The creation of this simple blog is for me to deposit my translations, done very much as a pastime. I hope you enjoy Andrew's painstaking work and my less serious translations.
PS - The only English translation I refer to is Andrew Wong's, unless otherwise stated. So any resemblance to other translations is purely coincidental. My translations try to keep the full meaning of all the words/phrases/clauses and imagery of the original, although the reader might not find exactly corresponding translations for each.
PS2 - I am also adding my translations of interesting poems other than those found in Andrew Wong's blog.


May 22, 2022

葉清臣 Ye Qingchen - 寄調: 賀聖朝  題: 留別

1  滿斟綠醑留君住
2  莫匆匆歸去
3  三分春色二分愁
4  更一分風雨

5  花開花謝
6  都來幾許
7  且高歌休訴
8  不知來嵗牡丹時
9  再相逢何處


Tune: He Shen Cao (Homage to the Imperial Court) #
Title: Farewell but Please Remain #
(Draft)

1  Filling your cup with fine wine I hope you will stay;
2  Do not leave in such haste I pray.
3  Three measures of spring…two are of melancholy;
4  While wind and rain, the third shall be.

5  Flowers bloom and then go;
6  How often will that be so?
7  So cease our grumbles and let us sing;
8  And next year, when peonies are in bloom, we wouldn’t know,
9  Whither be our next gathering.


Remarks:
The translations for the “Tune” and “Title” (#) are borrowed from Andrew Wong’s translation.
According to Andrew Wong, the rhyme scheme of the original is: AA/xA // xA/AxA. I am unable to follow the original rhyme scheme; my translation has another rhyme scheme of sorts. Also, I have not tried to keep to any particular length for each line.


May 8, 2022

改唐寅:一世歌

1  人生七十古来少 
2  前除年少后除老 
3  中间所剩亦不多
4  还有一半睡掉了


Adapted from Tang Yin’s 一世歌 (Song of One’s Life)
(Author unknown)
Draft

1  Beyond seventy few live since  long ago;
2  Less childhood  and the years when we are old,
3  What is left is not much between the two;
4  And of that a large part to bed we go.


Remarks:

During those days, not many people lived beyond the age of seventy. If we subtract the years when we were kids and the years when we were senile, there were not many productive years left. And of these, a large part was spent sleeping. A half serious poem with a serious theme. Treasure the time when we are mature and fit.

I tried to follow the same rhyme scheme, AAXA.

Reference:
https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E4%B8%80%E4%B8%96%E6%AD%8C/4531364


May 1, 2022

 劉方平 Liu Fangping: 月夜 

1  更深月色半人家
2  北斗闌干南斗斜
3  今夜偏知春氣暖
4  蟲聲新透綠窗紗


 A Moonlit Night (Draft)

1  Deep in the night, houses lit in halves, the moon shines bright;
2  Across the sky, both north and south, the Dippers glow.
3  I feel the warmth of spring, suddenly,  this very night;
4  And hear the sounds of insects through the green gauze window.

Remarks:

I am unable to follow the rhyme scheme of AAXA and have produced something like ABAB. 

Line 1: 更深 means ‘deep in the night.’
Line 2: 闌干 means ‘crisscross' or 'across' the sky. 'Glow' is not a direct translation from the original. However it  can be understood as such.
Line 3: 偏知 means ‘realise all of a sudden.’
Line 4: The word 新 is not rendered into English as it can be understood, as it appears to me rather long-winded to write 'the newly heard sounds of insects.’


Apr 3, 2022

 吳錦祥 Ng Kam-Cheung Stephen: 無題 

1 晚霞如火耀窗前
2 日落天邊海欲眠
3 朗月一輪隨夜上
4 無求無欲又明天


Untitled (draft)

1 A crimson evening, like fire, the window brightens;
2 At the sky's edge the sun sets, the sea feels asleep.
3 The circle of the clear moon rises as night deepens;
4 No wishes, no desires, again it's tomorrow.


Jan 19, 2020

李清照 Li Qingzhao: 蝶恋花 (暖雨晴风初破冻)

 1   暖雨晴風初破凍
 2   柳眼梅腮
 3   已覺春心動
 4   酒意詩情誰與共
 5   淚融殘粉花鈿重

 6   乍試夾衫金縷縫
 7   山枕斜欹
 8   枕損釵頭鳳
 9   獨抱濃愁無好夢
10 夜闌猶剪燈花弄


Butterflies Love Flowers

  1  The first warm showers and breezes break winter's cold,
  2  Willows’ buds and plum blossoms,
  3  The palpable stirrings of spring.
  4  With whom to share my yearning for wine and poesy?
  5  In tears my makeup melts, the headdress feels heavy.

 6  I try my new overcoat braided with golden threads,
 7  Then lying on a tilted pillow,
 8  My phoenix hairpin is ruined.
 9  Alone in sorrow dreary dreams embrace with no respite;
10  Still trimming the candle, hoping, deep in the night.

Pinyin:
 1   Nuǎn yǔqíng fēng chū pò dòng
 2   liǔ yǎn méi sāi
 3   yǐ jué chūn xīndòng
 4   jiǔyì shīqíng shuí yǔ gòng
 5   lèi róng cán fěn huā diàn zhòng

 6   zhà shì jiā shān jīn lǚ fèng
 7   shān zhěn xié yī
 8   zhěn sǔn chāi tóu fèng
 9   dú bào nóng chóu wú hǎo mèng
10 yèlán yóu jiǎn dēnghuā nòng

Remarks:
The rhyme scheme of the original is AXAAA, AXAAA but I am unable to follow the same rhyme in my translation.
Line 2: 柳眼 refers to the budding shoots of the willow leaves. 梅腮 refers to the crown of the plum flower, so it is simply translated as plum blossoms.
Line 5: 花鈿 refers to headdress of flowers.
Line 6: 夾衫 a double layered overcoat.
Line 7: 山枕 refers to the pillows of olden days that are curved up at both ends, like hills (hence 山).
Line 10: 夜闌 means late in the night. 燈花 is the candle's wick, and alludes to the saying 灯花报喜, and the allusion is made clear with the word 'hoping' in my translation.

Reference site:
https://chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.com/2020/01/li-qingzhao-butterflies-love-flowers.html
https://baike.baidu.com/

Jan 3, 2020

唐寅 Tang Yin: 桃花庵歌

 1  桃花坞里桃花庵,桃花庵下桃花仙。
 2  桃花仙人种桃树,又摘桃花换酒钱。
 3  酒醒只在花前坐,酒醉还来花下眠。
 4  半醉半醒日复日,花落花开年复年。
 5  但愿老死花酒间,不愿鞠躬车马前。
 6  车尘马足富者趣,酒盏花枝贫者缘。
 7  若将富贵比贫贱,一在平地一在天。
 8  若将贫贱比车马,他得驱驰我得闲。
 9  别人笑我太疯癫,我笑他人看不穿。
10 不见五陵豪杰墓,无花无酒锄作田。

Song of the Peach Blossom Hut

 1a  At the peach blossom grove there's a hut,
 1b  In the hut a fairy dwells;
 2a  The fairy plants the peach blossoms,
 2b  And for wine the flowers he plucks and sells.
 3a  Sober he sits before the blossoms,
 3b  Drunk he sleeps beneath the flowers;
 4a  Day after day, half drunk and half sober,
 4b  Year after year, they bloom and wither.
 5a  May I age and die amidst blossoms and wine,
 5b  And bowing  to mammon never ever;
 6a  Horse and carriage - the playthings of the rich,
 6b  The poor’s company are but wine and flowers.
 7a  Comparing the poor and the wealthy,
 7b  One’s on earth, the other’s in heaven;
 8a  Comparing carriages with the poor,
 8b  One's driven but the other's free.
 9a  Others laugh and say I’m not whole,
 9b  I laugh and say they just don’t know;
10a  The mighty of yore, their tombs are nowhere,
10b  No blossoms, no wine, only the earth to hoe.

Pinyin:
 1  táohuā wù lǐ táohuā ān, táohuā ān xià táohuā xiān.
 2  Táohuā xiānrén zhǒng táo shù, yòu zhāi táohuā huàn jiǔqián.
 3  Jiǔ xǐng zhǐ zài huā qián zuò, jiǔ zuì hái lái huā xià mián.
 4  Bàn zuì bàn xǐng rì fù rì, huā luòhuā kāi nián fù nián.
 5  Dàn yuàn lǎosǐ huā jiǔ jiān, bù yuàn jūgōng chē mǎ qián.
 6  Chē chén mǎ zú fù zhě qù, jiǔ zhǎn huāzhī pín zhě yuán.
 7  Ruò jiāng fùguì bǐ pínjiàn, yī zài píngdì yī zài tiān.
 8  Ruò jiāng pínjiàn bǐ chē mǎ, tā dé qū chí wǒ déxián.
 9  Biérén xiào wǒ tài fēngdiān, wǒ xiào tārén kàn bù chuān.
10 Bùjiàn wǔ líng háojié mù, wú huā wú jiǔ chú zuòtián.

Remarks:
Line 1:  桃花坞 (táohuā wù) is the name of a place in 苏州 (Suzhou) where the poet built his house. Literally it means peach blossom flower bed or grove.
Line 5:  车马 (chē mǎ) the phrase literally means carriage and horse, used here to denote the wealthy.
Line 6:  缘 (yuán) is a difficult word to translate. It originated from Buddhist teachings, referring to the kind of supramundane connections between people, usually drawing them together. I have simply translated it as 'company'.
Line 10:  五陵 (wǔ líng) originally refers to the tombs of five Han Dynasty emperors. The phrase is used to denote the very wealthy and the powerful.

Reference site:

Nov 25, 2019

王昌龄 Wang Changling: 出塞

1  秦时明月汉时关,
2  万里长征人未还。
3  但使龙城飞将在,
4  不教胡马度阴山。

Going to the Frontier

1  Forts, moon above, are as in the days of Han and Qin,
2  Soldiers, so far away, have long their home not seen;
3  And at Longcheng, as long as general Fei is there,
4  Galloping marauders won't dare cross the mountain Yin.

Pinyin:
Wángchānglíng: Chūsāi
1  Qín shí míngyuè hàn shí guān,
2  wànlǐ chángzhēng rén wèi huán,
3  Dàn shǐ lóng chéng fēi jiàng zài,
4  bù jiào hú mǎ dù yīnshān.

Remarks:
I tried to follow the same rhyme scheme AAXA.
Line 1:  The line means that the frontier posts/forts, and the moon, have not changed since the days of the Qin and Han dynasties (the poet was writing in the Tang Dynasty).
Line 3: 但使 means as long as. 龙城 was a fortress of the northern tribes (who marauded China to their south) which general Fei (飞将) overran. 飞将 was the nick for Han general 李广.
Line 4: 阴山 is a mountain range stretching across over 1000 km in northern China that marked the area separating ancient China and the northern tribes.

Reference sites:

Nov 23, 2019

元稹 Yuan Zhen: 行宮

1   寥落古行宮
2   宮花寂寞紅
3   白頭宮女在
4   閒坐說玄宗

The Outer Palace

1  The desolate old outer palace,
2  Lonely red flowers still blooming;
3  Court ladies, white haired, sit around,
4  Chatting idly about the dead King.

Alternative translation
1  The desolate outer palace is home
2  To lonely red flowers that still bloom;
3  And court ladies, white haired, idly sit,
4  Chatting about emperor Xuanzong.


Remarks:
The rhyme scheme of the poem is AAXA but I could only manage XAXA for the translation.
Line 1: 行宮 refers to a minor palace built elsewhere apart from the main palace. I have simply translated it as outer palace.
Line 3 & 4: The  word  坐 (sit) in line 4 is moved to line 3 in my translation.
Line 4: 玄宗 was the ninth emperor of the Tang Dynasty. He was the emperor who sent these court ladies to this minor palace (at Lokyang), known as the Shangyang Palace (上阳宫), and they remained confined there (till they all turned old and hair turned white) even after the emperor's death. In order to make the translation easier to understand, 玄宗 is simply translated as “dead King”. “King” is used instead of “emperor” so as to save two syllables and to rhyme with “blooming” :) .
Alternative translation: In this translation I try to get something of a AAXA rhyme to mimic the original Chinese.

Pinyin:
Yuán zhěn: Xínggōng
1   Liáoluò gǔ xínggōng
2   gōng huā jìmò hóng
3   báitóu gōngnǚ zài
4   xián zuò shuō xuánzōng

Reference sites:
https://chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.com/2019/10/yuan-zhen-779-831-adjunct-palace-1-in.html
https://m.gushiwen.org/gushiwen_e57030b42c.aspx


Nov 22, 2019

劉石佑 John Lau: 日本德仁天皇登基有感 (2019年10月23日)

1   禮失求諸夷
2   大唐盛世姿
3   東瀛存古例
4   重現壯豐儀

Enthronement of Emperor Naruhito 
of Japan (23 October 2019)*

1  From the eastern folks seek a lost culture,
2  Of the great Tang dynasty at its height;
3  The ancient ways Japan still does harbour,
4  The grand ceremony again in sight.

Remarks:
* Title adopted from Andrew Wong's translation.
The original rhyming scheme is AAXA. I have only managed ABAB.
Line 1:  禮 (the ways people observe in interacting with one another) is translated as culture. 夷 means the foreigners to the east (ie the Japanese).
Line 2:  姿 here refers to cultural characteristics or culture, so it is not translated again, with the word "of" taking care of it.
Line 3:  東瀛 is another term for Japan.
Line 4:   the word "ceremony" is the same as used by Andrew Wong to translate the meaning of 儀 (or 儀式/仪式) here.

Pinyin:
Liúshíyòu: Rìběn dé rén tiānhuáng dēngjī yǒu gǎn
1   Lǐ shī qiú zhū yí
2   dà táng shèngshì zī
3   dōngyíng cún gǔ lì
4   chóng xiàn zhuàng fēng yí

Link to andrew's translation: