Thursday, August 7, 2008

DU Mu: Autumn Rivershore

  Autumn Rivershore
               DU Mu (803-853)
The river-shoreline has perceptibly receded,
And the shade of willow leaves is becoming cancellous.
Children are heard calling from the boats
Beyond the dam, where fishermen are casting nets.
Sails speed by with the flags, while a light boat
Like an arrow thrashes against the flow.
You entered my dream, so intimate
That I have sent you a letter to the distant.


  秋autumn岸 rivershore
        Du Mu
河river 岸bank 微slightly 退recede 落fall
柳willow 影shade 微slightly 凋wither 疏scanty
船boat 上on 听listen 呼call 稚child
堤dam 南south 趁chase 漉net (v.) 鱼fish
数several/numerous 帆sail 旗flag 去go away 疾quick
一one 艇barge 箭arrow 回return 初just/only
曾once 入enter 相each other 思yearn 梦dream
因凭rely on 附through 远distant 书letter

  This poem is by a late Tang poet DU Mu (803-853), who enjoyed very high reputation. He and Li Shangyin (812?-858?), both late Tang poets, were called “Li and Du the Junior” as compared to the two greatest poets “Li and Du” (Li Bai 701-762 and Du Fu (712-770)) in the high Tang dynasty. This is a five-character parallel regulated rhyme, which means that there are eight lines with the alternating four lines rhyming. In this poem, the rhyme is [u:] sound.
  This poem is not necessarily DU Mu’s best, and it was included in the addendum of the authoritative edition of his collected poems entitled Fanchuan Poems (fanchuan being his penname). However, this poem proves his unique skills and techniques. The first two lines use a kind of understatement “slightly” to show the delicate change as autumn sets in. The water is receding, and the willow leaves begin to fall but still not thick enough to cast down shade.
  The following two lines are important in the sense that the children not only symbolize exuberant life and hope but also the family life which the poet-speaker probably lacks. The final two lines tell us that the poet-speaker is separated from his lover or wife or family. The fourth line refers to the fishing net. Again, the fishing net can be interpreted in two ways. On the one hand, fishing can be read as the pursuit for fame and gain, and this is in accordance with the symbol of entrapment in the use of net. On the other hand, fisherman life has long been a symbol of withdraw from the chase after worldly success, and a fisherman symbolizes a hermit. The coming and going of boats, of course, should be best interpreted as the hustling and bustling of everyday life, including the pursuit of vanity and worldly possessions, as well as the seperation and reunion of loved ones. In face of this business or busyness, the poet, away from his beloved, realizes he had a dream about hearth and has sent or will send a letter to the distant.

Back-translation of the English into contemporary Chinese 英文的现代语译



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