Friday, August 22, 2008

Sikong Shu: A Riverside Village Note

  A Riverside Village Note
          Sikong Shu (720-790 Tang Dynasty)
After a day’s fishing, I head for home alone,
Leaving the boat there behind, free.
The moon is falling west over my village,
The best light for a tight sleep.
Night breeze may try to steer my boat away,
But without me, how far can they go
When the reeds grow so thick on the shoal?

《江村即事》
     [唐]司空曙
钓罢归来不系船,
江村月落正堪眠。
纵然一夜风吹去,
只在芦花浅水边。

Word-by-word annotation

  江river村village即instant事event
     [唐]司空曙 Sikong Shu (720-790)

钓 fishing 罢 over 归 return 来 back 不 not 系 fasten 船 boat
江 river 村 village 月 moon 落 fall 正 in the process of 堪 good for 眠 sleep
纵然 even if 一 one 夜 night 风 wind 吹 blow 去 away
只 only 在 in 芦 reed 花 flower 浅 shallow 水 water 边 side

About the poet:
  Sikong Shu (720-790) was one of the so-call “Dali Ten Talents” of Tang Dali Reign (766-779). This group of ten poets paid special attention to poetic techniques in writing. Most of them were not successful in their bureaucratic official career, and their relatively lower rank compelled them to write a significant proportion of complimentary and responsory poems while their pride might not allow them to be tuft-hunting. Therefore, their best poems were something like this poem in theme and attainment, the result to learn from Wang Wei.
  As before, my translation is a free verse. The original poem, as can be seen, is a seven-character quatrain, which means that its rhyme scheme is AABA.
  This poem is noteworthy for its two kinds of scenery, which in Chinese literary criticism are called factual and fictional scenery. The real scene is what the first two lines have described, while the third and last lines represent an imaginary scene. The comparison between the “tos” and “fros” is also unique. The first line writes about coming back to home, and the fourth character 来 means “come,” which implies that fishing is an act of “going out” (into the society). Now, it is time for returning home for a tight sleep. There might be wind when the speaker is sleeping, and takes from him the boat (the vehicle for his living) when he is left behind without any vigilance. The symbolic significance shall not be neglected. The literal meaning of 即事 in the title is the present thing (happening before the eyes), which obviously should include the imaginary happening. Therefore, the poem writes about two kinds of happenings in two different perceptive worlds: the tangible and the visionary. The happening in the visionary world (the wind might try to blow away the boat) is curbed under the control, and this is the control of the poet over the poem too.
  司空曙是大历十才子之一,这一组诗人比较注重诗歌的技术性。他们大多数仕途不顺。这使得他们一方面要写一些应酬唱和之作,另一方面又不愿意趋炎附势。注重诗歌技术的同时,他们写出了一些小品式的诗歌,如这首,这恐怕得益于他们学习王维的努力。
这首诗值得注意的是其中的两种景物描写,这在传统中国文学批评中成为实景和虚景。前两行实写江村之景,而后两行则是想象的景物。这两个景物之中的一来一去对比很特别,第一行中的“归来”指的是归家,已经暗示“钓”乃是一种出门追求的意味了,而夜风将船再次“吹去”则有些暗示某种难以把控的意思了。本来,诗人似乎显得全无戒心,但他将船留在身后的同时,已经是意识到了自己“睡去”之后可能发生的事,这里的事可以与题目上的即事(present happening)一致地看。
  标题中的即事显然是要包括后两行中的虚景的,而诗人将这个虚景中可能发生的事还是在预想中按到了实处。虚景与实景对应的是两个感觉世界:幻象的和可触摸的。然而,幻象中发生的事件却最终还是被物理世界所控制了,这也是诗人对于这首诗的控制。

Back-translation into contemporary Chinese:
英文译文的现代汉语回译:

   江村记事

钓了一天鱼,我独自回家,
将船留在身后,随它自由。
月亮从我的村子上西沉,
这样的光最合适深睡。
夜晚的微风或许会试图将我的船儿划走,
但是浅滩上的芦苇长得那么厚,
没有我在,它们能够走多远呢?

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