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two translations from Chinese (of rather dubious merit, of course)

Posted to Poetry

Farewell., by Wang Wei. Translation A.Pereira.

(version 1:)

please dismount,
and have this cup of wine.
what travel takes you
along my way?
you say: "shame
would set me down
to sleep on the side
of Southern Mountain."

that's a journey
of whose ends
none can answer.
but white clouds
march back
from beyond the sea.


(version 2:)

my hand holds
what way
takes you?
shame: sleep beckons,
southern mountain.
go no answer.
white clouds
without time.


Travelling is Hard., by Li Bai. A Highly Interpretative Translation from the Post-Post-Daoist School of Literature,
Courtesy of A. Pereira.


(the scene is set:
our poet feasting
amongst the Immortals,
spirits flowing into
golden cups from
the Big Dipper--)

"After a thousand cups
of gold with wine,
and treasure worth
ten thousand,
exquisite delicacies
passed on jade platters--
I throw down my chop-sticks,
having had my fill...

and draw my sword!"

(he grasps his pen,)

"Turn after turn I face
the Four-Corners,
sword in hand--
but in the vast distance
that rises against me,
my heart stumbles."

(heavily intoxicated, he collapses.)

"I would feign to ford the Yellow River,
but it's choked with ice.
I would cross Tai Mountain,
but it's packed with snow.

So I return to leisure,
fishing above a stream--
and suddenly I dream
of sailing my boat
to the border
of the sun."

(as he's sprawled upon the table,
his beard trails among the upturned glasses)

"Travelling is hard!"

(and doubly hard when you've been drinking,)

"So many branching paths--
where might today's peace
be found?"

(he's angling for an imperial promotion, of course--
a literary career of clowning for a decadent emperor;
but as Mel Brooks mights say,
"--it could be 'verse, ya know.")

"But the time will come
to cut against the waves,
as the wind gathers.
Meanwhile I raise
my ready sail--"

(he holds the manuscript of this poem
above his head, in offering to the emperor)

"To push against the sea's dark hue."