Monday, August 25, 2008

Hanxin: A Dog that Kissed Me

  A Dog That Kissed Me
        Hanxin (1968-) tr. Fan Jinghua
It scampered up, its breaths audible,
Paws on my shoulder, licking me
Once and again,
Soft, warm, and a little sour.

So conscientious! Without fences or thorns,
The road in the body was broad and bright,
Free to come and free to go.
This was much more gratifying
Than love with a man




  "Kiss" in the title indicates that the speaker is comparing the dog with men, and therefore the acts of the dog shall be understood along with the comparison. The first stanza is very detailed, going slowly, just as the phrase "over and over" tries to represent. The first stanza, then, is a long and patient foreplay. However, a sense of proportion underlies beauty, and in this poem the foreplay appears to be a little too long and it expects a heightened climax. But, this poem is essentially anticlimactic, for it is not about the heightened sensation of love but about the subsiding "comfort" (one of the literal meanings of 舒服 in the last line).
  "Conscientious" may not be a satisfying translation, as the original phrase 认真 has multiple means from dutiful, dedication and diligent to earnest and taking to heart. The contrast is that the dog is a better partner than a man, at least. The reason is implied in the following phrases of "no fences, no thorns," and the consequence (?) is the broad and bright road in the body, without any 束restraint. The 束 here is also very slippery, and the etymological meaning evokes the image of (binding into) a bundle, but it may mean 拘束trammel, 管束control, 约束bond and commitment.
  As the poem does not use punctuations at the end of lines, and the three lines in the second stanza do not necessarily read the way I have explicated. An alternative translation may be:
    It is so conscientious, no fences, no thorns
    The road in the body broad and bright
    No restraint for coming and going
  The climax appears to be when men are brought into the play, but it is the absence of men that the comparison is made. The comparison between a man (or men) and a dog needs further explication. In Chinese, it is the most derogatory insult to compare a man to a beast (more derogatory than calling a policeman a pig in English). Therefore, the animal pleasure of sex is never a morally justifiable enjoyment. The phrase 舒服 (comfortable) implies that the pleasure comes not from the fulfilling gratification of orgasm but from a kind of infiltrating interfusion which may be better understood in terms of subsiding phase.
  However, if the pursuit of orgasm is not self-justified, my interpretation can only be taken as a metaphor. That is, this poem is not a metaphor about sexual relation between men and women in a society, but should be interpreted literally. We may simple say that this is a poem about the appreciation of the love from a pet. It is about the relation between human beings and the animals, and the pets may provide more ready “comfort” than human beings do.

  这首诗的翻译难度不仅仅来自于语法层面,还来自于语义层面。认真,在汉语中不仅仅是conscientious 用心,而且可能是dutiful 尽心、dedicated 专心、diligent 细心、用功、勤勉、earnest 心诚、take to heart 当真,等。而同样,下面的那个来去无束的“束”字,词源意义具有很强的意象性,指(捆成)一束,但是此刻它可以是拘束、管束、约束等词组的意思。

About the poet:
Hanxin, pen name of Dong Mei, is a contemporary woman poet who was born in 1968 in Lanzhou, Gansu and now resides in Shandong. She has published Three Simple Hearts (co-authored) and Rambling Slowness.

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