Monday, April 30, 2012

Specter

I am the god who fought for you,
Wandering Osiris, my kin, enslaving foes;
You have tasted nature’s brew,
Forgetting what once held chance in throe.

What I see amid the gauze and gusts
Is life in prism distended,
Rotting monuments turned to dust,
Sanity, identity—prayers suspended.

You slipped the core, fighting duality;
Black and white, yin and yang,
Alien memory, a debt of brutality—
But what, Osiris, amid the dirt, went wrong?

You stood beneath the temple walls
Reading recorded time in tablet glyphs,
But all you remember from symbolic halls
Is a woman—dried Egyptian, painted stiff.


Note: allusions to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, “Ozymandias,” and Daoism.

Li Bai's "Recalling the Past While Mooring Overnight at Niuzhu" (300 Tang Poems #104)





Translation

Li Bai (701-762)

李白
Recalling the Past While Mooring Overnight at Niuzhu

夜泊牛渚懷古


Niuzhu,
Western River, night

牛渚
西江夜
A clear sky
without a shred of clouds.

青天
無片雲
As I board my boat
and gaze at the autumn moon

登舟
望秋月
I recall in vain
how General Xie heard a poet singing.

空憶
謝將軍
I too
can sing aloud

余亦
能高詠
But he
cannot possibly hear.

斯人
不可聞
Tomorrow morning
I hang my sail

明朝
挂帆席
While maple leaves
fall one-by-one.

楓葉
落紛紛

Notes:
1.    There is a story of General Xie hearing a poor poet singing his poem aloud at Niuzhu. Impressed, he invited him over to discuss his poems. When the new got out, the poet became famous and was eventually appointed to be governor.
2.    Meaning of the last two verses: Since I cannot find a soulmate here (no one to appreciate my talent), I can do nothing but leave this place.


Original Chinese

Traditional
Simplified
Pronunciation



李白
李白
Lǐ Bái
夜泊牛渚懷古
夜泊牛渚懷古
Yè pō niú zhǔ huái gǔ



牛渚西江夜,
牛渚西江夜,
Niú zhǔ xī jiāng yè,
青天無片雲;
青天無片雲;
Qīng tiān wú piàn yún;
登舟望秋月,
登舟望秋月,
Dēng zhōu wàng qiū yuè,
空憶謝將軍。
空憶謝將軍。
Kōng yì xiè jiāng jūn.
余亦能高詠,
余亦能高詠,
Yú yì néng gāo yǒng,
斯人不可聞。
斯人不可聞。
Sī rén bù kě wén.
明朝挂帆席,
明朝挂帆席,
Míng cháo guà fān xí,
楓葉落紛紛。
楓葉落紛紛。
Fēng yè luò fēn fēn.


Literal Notes

李白
Plum White=Li Bai(701-762)
夜泊牛渚懷古
Night/dark/in-night/by-night anchor/moor/anchor-vessel/lie-at-anchor Niu/cow/ox/bull Zhu/small-sand-bank/islet recall/cherish/bosom/breast/carry-in-breast past/memory-of-the-past-events/old/ancient
[Niu Zhu=Mt. Niuzhu in Anhui]


牛渚西江夜,
Niu/cow/bull Zhu/small-sand-bank/islet West River night
[West River=ancient name of the Yangtze River section from Nanjing to Jiangxi]
青天無片雲;
Clear/blue sky no thin-piece/slice/disc/sheet/flake/partial cloud
登舟望秋月,
Board/climb/ascend/to-scale/to-mount/step-or-tred-on/enter boat gaze(into-the-distance)/look-towards/expect/visit autumn moon
空憶謝將軍。
In-vain/empty/vacant/unoccupied/space/free-time/leisure/bare/deserted memorize/recall/recollect Xie General High-ranking-millitary-official
[Xie General= General Xie in East Jin Dynasty. The anecdote is when Xie was stationed at Niuzhu, a poor poet (Yuan Hong) was reading his poem in the boat. Xie happened to hear that and invited him to come over and discuss about his poems. Later, the news spread and eventually the poor poet was promoted to be a city governor.]
余亦能高詠,
I/me also/likewise able-to/capable-of/can-possibly high/loud sing
[high/loud sing= read aloud]
斯人不可聞。
This/thus/such person/man not can/able-to/may/possibly hear
明朝挂帆席,
Tomorrow/bright/clear morning hang/suspend sail/canvas/boat woven-mat/seat/banquet
楓葉落紛紛。
Maple-tree leaf fall/drop/sink/go-out numerous/scattered disorderly
[numerous disorderly=one after another, one by one, in succession, continuously, in profusion.]


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Li Bai’s “Listening to Monk Jun Play the Lute” (300 Tang Poems #103)




Translation

Li Bai (701-762)

李白
Listening to Shu Province Monk Jun Play the Lute

聽蜀僧濬彈琴


A monk from Shu
holds the green and elegant lute,

蜀僧
抱綠綺
Having come from the west,
the mountains of Emei.

西下
峨眉峰
For me alone
he work his hands

為我
一揮手
And it feels like listening to
thousands of streams among the pines

如聽
萬壑松
Where the soul of the listener
is bathed in flowing water:

客心
洗流水
The lingering echoes
enter as crystals in a clock.

餘響
入霜鐘
Without awareness,
the sun has set over the mountain green

不覺
碧山暮
And the autumn clouds
have darkened a few shades.

秋雲
暗幾重

Original Chinese

Traditional
Simplified
Pronunciation



李白
李白
Lǐ Bái
聽蜀僧濬彈琴
听蜀僧浚弹琴
Tīng shǔ sēng jùn tán qín



蜀僧抱綠綺,
蜀僧抱绿绮,
Shǔ sēng bào lǜ qǐ,
西下峨眉峰;
西下峨眉峰;
Xī xià é méi fēng;
為我一揮手,
为我一挥手,
Wèi wǒ yī huī shǒu,
如聽萬壑松。
如听万壑松。
Rú tīng wàn hè sōng.
客心洗流水,
客心洗流水,
Kè xīn xǐ liú shuǐ,
餘響入霜鐘。
余响入霜钟。
Yú xiǎng rù shuāng zhōng.
不覺碧山暮,
不觉碧山暮,
Bù jué bì shān mù,
秋雲暗幾重?
秋云暗几重?
Qiū yún àn jǐ chóng?
                                                                                          

Literal Notes

李白
Plum White=Li Bai(701-762)
聽蜀僧濬彈琴
Listen/hear Shu monk/sangha Jun/profound/deep play lute/stringed-instrument/guitar
[Shu= Sichuan province in southwest China, one of the three kingdoms in the fall of Han Dynasty.]
[Jun= the monk’s name]


蜀僧抱綠綺,
Shu monk embrace/hug/hold/carry/cherish Green Beautiful/open-work-silk/fine-silk/elegant/beautiful
[Green Beautiful/open-work-silk=the lute’s name]
西下峨眉峰;
West down/downward/below/lower/later/bring-down E/lofty Mei/eyebrows high-or-tapered-peak/summit/highest-level/mountain-like-in-appearance
[E Mei= Mt. Emei in Emei county in Sichuan]
為我一揮手,
As/for/to/do/by/serve-as/behave-as I/me one/single/as-soon-as wave hand
如聽萬壑松。
As-if/seem/as/like listen thousands-of gully/narrow-ravines/bed-of-torrents pine-tree/fir-tree
客心洗流水,
Customer/visitor/guest heart/mind/spirit/soul wash/bathe flowing/running water
[flowing/running water=idiom to describe the good virtuoso that the music is like lofty mountains and running water. It also means a good music performance can cause empathy in the listeners.]
餘響入霜鐘。
Remaining/residue/extra/surplus echo/sound/noise/ring/loud enter/go-into/join/become frost/white-powder/cream-spread-over-a-surface/crystalize bell/clock
不覺碧山暮,
Not sense/feel/aware/wake-up green/jade/blue hill/mountain/gable evening/sunset/nightfall
[Not sense = unconscious]
秋雲暗幾重?
Autumn cloud dim/dark/gloomy/muddled/obscure how-many/a-few level/layer/heavy


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Vampire


Time begins in flesh
left soul-less after death

yet living through the essence
of those who believe.

In a lunatic’s soul

The vampire gives birth
to circulating qi

that winds through sucking tunnels
connecting the limbs and mind.

we feel the toll

You have killed one man,
so what’s another

in a night that’s black
with waters of abyss?

the hangman’s noose

You can’t murder a man
who’s been dead for centuries,

for there is wisdom in the dead,
and a blind burning in love.

we struggle loose

And in our veins there is life,
the blood of Abraham

that carried a people starved
and stabbed by men of war.

But there are things that are worse than death
when the heart is drunk

and secrets leak from the grave
and what we see is the illusion of flesh.


Note: Qi or chi (both the same, just romanized differently), in Chinese medicine, is something like energy of life, a vital force that circulates through the body along pathways, analogous to the body's bio-electricity and heat. Practices like Chi Gong (qigong)  attempt to improve the flow of qi for health benefits.

Allusions: Garrett Fort, Sylvia Plath, Guy Endore, various old Dracula movies.

This is written for today’s dVersePoet’s prompt, “vampires,” which I am guest-hosting.

Please see my translation of Charles Baudelaire's "Vampire" for his take on the subject.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Li Bai’s “Seeing Off a Friend” (300 Tang Poems #102)




Translation

Li Bai (701-762)
李白
Seeing Off a Friend
送友人


Green hills
across the northern walls

青山
橫北郭
Pure water
spirals east about the town

白水
遶東城
This soil
is the place of our departing

此地
一為別
A dandelion...
thousands of miles... your journey...

孤蓬
萬里征
Drifting as the clouds...
a wandering child, I feel

浮雲
游子意
The sun is setting
and I think of my old friend

落日
故人情
Waving hands
as now you go

揮手
自茲去
Desolate, dejected—
your team of horses cries.


蕭蕭
班馬鳴
Original Chinese

Traditional
Simplified
Pronunciation



李白
李白
Lǐ Bái
送友人
送友人
Sòng yǒu rén



青山橫北郭,
青山横北郭,
Qīng shān héng běi guō,
白水遶東城。
白水遶东城。
Bái shuǐ rào dōng chéng.
此地一為別,
此地一为别,
Cǐ dì yī wéi bié,
孤蓬萬里征。
孤蓬万里征。
Gū péng wàn lǐ zhēng.
浮雲游子意,
浮云游子意,
Fú yún yóu zǐ yì,
落日故人情。
落日故人情。
Luò rì gù rén qíng.
揮手自茲去,
挥手自兹去,
Huīshǒu zì zī qù,
蕭蕭班馬鳴。
萧萧班马鸣。
Xiāo xiāo bān mǎ míng.


Literal Notes

李白
Plum White=Li Bai(701-762)
送友人
See-off/send-off friend man/person
[friend man= friend]


青山橫北郭,
Green hills/mountain across/horizontal north/northern/northward outer-city-wall/outer-part-of-a-city
[Green hills= a hint of good life or cheerful spirits.]
白水遶東城。
White/pure/clear/plain water spiral/move-round/go-round/by-pass/make-a-detour/entwine/wind-around/surround east/eastern/eastward city/town
此地一為別,
This place/earth/soil/ground one/once/a do/be/is/for/to/because farewell/separate/leave/depart
孤蓬萬里征。
Lone/lonely/orphan/solitary grass-name/fleabane/disheveled/type-of-raspberry thousands-of/10,000 miles journey/trip/expedition/go-on-long-campaign
[Lone/lonely grass-name/fleabane/disheveled= a common allusion to someone doomed to travel forever. It’s also called flying fleabane, because after it’s withered, it will just fly with the wind. Here refers to the friend traveling afar.]
浮雲游子意,
Floating/fleeting/transient/drift/waft clouds traveling/swim/float/drift/wander/roam son/child feeling/meaning/thought/idea/wish/desire/intention
[traveling son=Chinese saying, person living or traveling away from home]
落日故人情。
Falling/setting/dropping sun old friend/person feeling/love/emotion/relationship/sentiment        
揮手自茲去,
Wave hand self/from/since now/here/this/time/year go/leave/send-sb-to-go/pass/elapse/depart
蕭蕭班馬鳴。
Miserable/desolate/mournful/dejected [“”] class/team/squad horse cry(of animal)
[Miserable/desolate dreary= xiao xiao, horse neighing sound, but the choice of the word also reflecting the sadness.]
[class/team/squad horse=here refers to the horse at farewell, also an allusion of this horse is to leave its group.]
[cry(of birds)= horse neigh, nicker/whicker/whinny]

This is a new version of an earlier translation I did.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Li Bai’s “On the Ferry, a Farewell to Jingmen” (300 Tang Poems #101)




     The poem was written on a boat trip along the Yangtze river, when Li Bai was 26-years-old. He bid farewell to the family and went on a long trip, ready to explore the world.

Translation

Li Bai (701-762)

李白
On the Ferry, a Farewell to Jingmen

渡荊門送別


The ferry is distant,
far from Jingmen,

渡遠
荊門外
Having come to pass
the Kingdom of Chu.

來從
楚國遊
Following mountain peaks
and limitless plains

山隨
平野盡
We enter the Yangzi's
deluge, vast and raw.

江入
大荒流
The moon is sinking,
flying through the sky, a mirror

月下
飛天鏡
Giving birth to clouds
that form a vision of towers in the sea.

雲生
結海樓
And yet, I long for
the native waters

仍憐
故鄉水
Thousands of miles away
from my farewell boat.

萬里
送行舟

Original Chinese

Traditional
Simplified
Pronunciation



李白
李白
Lǐ Bái
渡荊門送別
渡荆门送别
Dù jīng mén sòng bié



渡遠荊門外,
渡远荆门外,
Dù yuǎn jīng mén wài,
來從楚國遊。
来从楚国游。
Lái cóng chu guó yóu.
山隨平野盡,
山随平野尽,
Shān suí píng yě jǐn,
江入大荒流。
江入大荒流。
Jiāng rù dà huāng liú.
月下飛天鏡,
月下飞天镜,
Yuè xià fēi tiān jìng,
雲生結海樓。
云生结海楼。
Yún shēng jié hǎi lóu.
仍憐故鄉水,
仍怜故乡水,
Réng lián gù xiāng shuǐ,
萬里送行舟。
万里送行舟。
Wàn lǐ sòng xíng zhōu.


Literal Notes

李白
Plum White=Li Bai(701-762)
渡荊門送別
Cross/to-ferry/pass-through/ferry-over Jing/thorn/brambles Men/gate/entrance see-off/send-off depart/separate
[Jing Men=a city in Hubei. It was the border between Chu Kingdom and Shu Kingdom in Sichuan.]
[see-off depart= farewell]


渡遠荊門外,
To-ferry/ferry-over/cross far/distant/remote Jing/thorn/bramble Men/gate/entrance/door outside/external/foreign/in-addition
來從楚國遊。
Come/arrive/come-round/ever-since/next from/via/passing-through/follow/join/by/through Chu/clear Kingdom/country/nation/state travel/trip/walk/tour/roam
山隨平野盡,
Mountain/hill/gable/peak follow/comply-with/varying-according-to/allow plain/flat/level/equal/calm/peaceful field/open-space/rude/limit/boundary/feral/open-country/wilderness use-up/end/finish/exhaust/to-the-utmost/to-the-limit/deplete
江入大荒流。
River/large-river enter/go-into/join big/vast/huge/major/great/wide/deep/great desolate/uncultivated/wasteland/desert flow/disseminate/circulate/spread/move/drift/stream-of-water
月下飛天鏡,
Moon under/downwards/below/lower/later/decline /to-go-down fly/go-quickly sky/heaven/day mirror/lens
雲生結海樓。
Cloud to-be-born/grow/give-birth-to/life to-tie/bind/knot/sturdy sea/ocean storied-building/tower
[sea/ocean storied-building/tower=idiom, mirage]
仍憐故鄉水,
Still/yet/remain/as-ever/again/keep-doing-something/continuing to-pity/sympathize old/ancient town/village water
[old town=hometown, homeland, native place]
萬里送行舟。
Thousands-of/10,000/innumerable  miles see-off/send-off walk/go/ to-travel/visit  boat