Subscribe: by Email | in Reader

A Night Abroad -- Du Fu

Guest poem sent in by Raj Bandyopadhyay
(Poem #1159) A Night Abroad
 A light wind is rippling at the grassy shore....
 Through the night, to my motionless tall mast,
 The stars lean down from open space,
 And the moon comes running up the river.
 ..If only my art might bring me fame
 And free my sick old age from office! --
 Flitting, flitting, what am I like
 But a sand-snipe in the wide, wide world!
-- Du Fu
    (Translated by Witter Bynner, 1929)

Here's another translation of the same poem, by Vikram Seth

  "Thoughts While Travelling at Night"
  (Translated by Vikram Seth, 1992)

  Light breeze on the fine grass
  I stand alone at the mast.
  Stars lean on the vast wild plain
  Moon bobs in the great river's spate.
  Letters have brought no fame
  Office? Too old to obtain.
  Drifting, what am I like?
  A gull between the earth and sky.

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

I finally received a copy of Vikram Seth's 'Three Chinese poets' after a
long wait, and had to send out a nice one!!!

Du Fu (712-770 AD), one of the most well known Tang Dynasty Chinese poets,
along with Li Bai and Wang Wei. This dynasty (618-907 AD) is considered
the golden period of Chinese poetry, probably well-known to westerners
through the collection : 300 Tang Dynasty poems. This collection is a
must-read for every Chinese schoolkid. Both the originals and translations
are online at an excellent archive at
http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/chinese/frame.htm

I personally find this kind of poetry appealing, even in translation,
because of the simplicity and universal appeal of the ideas. Chinese
poetry loses most of the lyrical beauty in translation, hence different
translations have really different degrees of impact: a point I want to
make here.

Traditional translations in the 19th and early 20th centuries try to
translate in a way which results in 'English poetry', sometimes taking
undue (IMHO) liberties with language or concepts. Modern translations such
as those of Seth (not many people know of his expertise in Chinese
literature!) keep the English language simple, maintain the sentence
structure and attempt to get the elegance of the ideas across. Some people
consider Seth's style inferior. I will reserve final judgement until I can
understand these poems in the original. Meanwhile, other opinions are
welcome!

So here goes! The poem itself I chose because I sometimes strongly
identify with the feelings of aimlessness and smallness described. I
personally feel the Bynner translation as more descriptive, but the Seth
translation more emotionally appealing and overall, understandable. I
might just be stupid... :-)

References:
1) Witter Bynner: The Jade Mountain (1929), also at the UVA website above
2) Vikram Seth: Three Chinese Poets (1992)

40 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

chr3 said...

Here is Kenneth Rexroth's version of the same poem by Tu Fu:

Night Thoughts While Travelling

A light breeze rustles the reeds
Along the river banks. The
Mast of my lonely boat soars
Into the night. Stars blossom
Over the vast desert of
Waters. Moonlight flows on the
Surging river. My poems have
Made me famous but I grow
Old, ill and tired, blown hither
And yon; I am like a gull
Lost between heaven and earth.

--Coming after the first four sentences, the enjambments of the last five
lines communicate a wonderful surge and fall of emotion.
Charles H. Rammelkamp

Jordan said...

These two versions of "A Night Abroad" illustrate the helplessness of a
reader of translation. If you do not read the original language, you
cannot know which translator is more respectful of the poet's intent.

In the Bynner translation, there is more energy and motion - the stars
lean down, the moon runs, and the poet flits. In Seth's translation the
stars lean(less intensity), the moon bobs(less motility), and the poet
drifts(less energy being expended).

In addition, the two translations describe circumstances that are
significantly different, or at least may be interpreted quite
differently by the reader. Bynner portrays a man yearning for the
literary success that will "free" him from having to work as a public
official; Seth's narrator laments the difficulty in obtaining such an
office.

The translators chose different birds as symbols for the discomfort of
the poet. Bynner refers to a sand snipe, a bird that spends most of its
life in the relative shelter of tall weeds. A sand snipe is a grouse,
less graceful than a gull and more prone to rapid changes in direction
while on its feet. Seth chose a gull, an elegant symbol of rootlessness
and yearning.* The gull is condemned to live on land and the sea and in
the air; it has no home. As a perceptive traveler in pastoral places,
Du Fu must have chosen his symbols with care. To me, Seth's choice of
bird is more poetic. But I still don't know which bird Du Fu was
thinking about!

Seth's translation "moves" more steadily due to his use of end rhyme.
Bynner's translation has less order of form, but its lack of structure
lets my mind wander. In as much as one of the themes of "A Night
Abroad" is the wandering of a man, Bynner's translation seems more in
tune with the mental and emotional condition of Du Fu's traveller.

I will probably always associate the gull as a symbol of rootlessness
with the elves of Middle Earth. Legolas claimed that no elf could ever
again feel settled in Middle Earth after hearing the cry of a gull; he
would ever yearn for his home across the sea.

STANTON HAGER said...

Dear Minstrel:
Wonderful webpage on Tu Fu's "Night Abroad."
For those who want to know how well the Bynner, Seth, and Rexroth translations match the originals, I strongly suggest visting chinese-poems.com. There "Night Thoughts While Traveling"--and 55 other Tu Fu poems--are given accurate English transliterations for every line of the poem.
My own translation:

NIGHT THOUGHTS AS I TRAVEL

A gentle breeze sways the deep grass
along the riverbanks.
At night, alone, glancing at my boat's
tall mast,
I spot a star plunging into a far-off field.
On the still face of the Yangtze, the
moon traces its slow ascent.

I've not made my mark as a poet, and
Should, like an old and ill official, retire
from my career.
Flapping and fluttering this way, that,
and back again,
My soul wheels in aimless circles,
a lost lone gull adrift
Between heaven and earth.
Tu Fu (712--770)
trans., Stanton Hager

Penis Enlargement said...

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about information and love learning more on this. If possible, as you gain expertise, It is extremely helpful for me. would you mind updating your blog with more information

Inversiones en petroleo said...

Good morning, I like to find information to help me grow as a person, thanks for sharing this valuable information, good job

Invertir en oro said...

It is extremely helpful for me. would you mind updating your blog with more information

Ideas de negocios said...

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, but I am firmly convinced of this and love to learn more about the subject. If possible, acquire knowledge, would you update your blog with more information? It is very helpful to me

online pharmacy said...

so great poem and I really take some experience that inspirited me

Space Matters Real Estates said...

Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return. Plots for sale in Hyderabad
Plots for sale in Banjara Hills
Plots for sale in Jubilee Hills
Plots for sale in Manikonda
Plots for sale in Madhapur
Plots for sale in kondapur
Plots for sale in Gachibowli
Plots for sale in Kukatpally

William Smith said...

This is such a great post, and was thinking much the same myself. Online Hotel Booking | ELECTRONICS PRODUCTS FOR HOME | Another great update.

alat sex said...

saya suka bisa datang berkunjungi ke sini, dan mohon ijin sberbagi info tentang toko alat bantu, yg jual alat sex, alat bantu sex pria, alat bantu sex wanita.

Anonymous said...

Great article, I will always read an article on this website

Obat Herbal said...

Seberat apapun beban masalah yang kamu hadapi saat ini, percayalah bahwa semua itu tidak pernah melebihi batas kemampuan kamu.

Samsul Hakim said...

nice post
Mengobati Penyakit Ambeien Stadium 3
Mengobati Penyakit Ambeien Wasir Stadium 3
Tips Mengobati Penyakit Ambeien Stadium 3
Resep Mengobati Penyakit Ambeien Stadium 3
Mengobati Penyakit Ambeien Berdarah Stadium 3
Cara Cepat Mengobati Penyakit Ambeien Stadium 3
Artikel Mengobati Penyakit Ambeien Stadium 3
obat ambeien paling ampuh di apotik
obat ambeien alami paling ampuh di apotik
pusat obat ambeien paling ampuh di apotik
obat tradisional ambeien paling ampuh di apotik
obat salep ambeien paling ampuh di apotik
nama obat ambeien paling ampuh di apotik
harga obat ambeien paling ampuh di apotik
Obat Buat Penyakit Gonore Kencing nanah
Obat Buat Mengatasi Penyakit Gonore Kencing nanah
Obat Herbal Buat Penyakit Gonore Kencing nanah
Cari Obat Buat Penyakit Gonore Kencing nanah
Obat Buat Penyakit Gonore Kencing nanah Pada Pria
Obat Manjur Buat Penyakit Gonore Kencing nanah
Pengobatan Buat Penyakit Gonore Kencing nanah
Obat Ambeien Di Apotik Ambejoss
Obat Ambeien Di Apotik Merk Ambejoss
Obat Ambeien Luar Di Apotik Ambejoss
Beli Obat Ambeien Di Apotik Ambejoss
Obat Wasir Ambeien Di Apotik Ambejoss
Obat Ambeien Parah Di Apotik Ambejoss
Obat Penyakit Ambeien Di Apotik Ambejoss
Makalah Obat Herbal Wasir Berdarah
Makalah Pengobatan Herbal Wasir Berdarah
Makalah Obat Herbal Atasi Wasir Berdarah
Makalah Resep Obat Herbal Wasir Berdarah
Makalah Obat Herbal Wasir Berdarah Parah
Cara Mengobati Penyakit Ambeien Akut
Cara Herbal Mengobati Penyakit Ambeien Akut
Cara Mengobati Penyakit Ambeien Luar Akut
Kumpulan Cara Mengobati Penyakit Ambeien Akut
Cara Cepat Mengobati Penyakit Ambeien Akut
Cara Terbaik Menghilangkan Kutil Di Kemaluan Pria
Cara Terbaik Menghilangkan Benjolan Kutil Di Kemaluan Pria
Cara Terbaik Menghilangkan Kutil Di Batang Kemaluan Pria
Cara Terbaik Menghilangkan Infeksi Kutil Di Kemaluan Pria
Cara Terbaik Untuk Menghilangkan Kutil Di Kemaluan Pria

Post a Comment