Monday, June 1, 2009

Liu Zongyuan: Snowscape on a River

  Snowscape on a River
         LIU Zongyuan (773-819 Tang Poet) tr. FAN Jinghua
Among a thousand mountains, bird’s flight denies sighting,
Along ten thousand trails, human traces leave nothing.
On a lone boat, a man, perhaps old, in a straw rain-cape,
Fishes on the cold solitary river taking in downy flakes.

Original Chinese Poem:

  江雪
     [唐] 柳宗元 (773-819)
千山鸟飞绝,万径人踪灭。
孤舟蓑笠翁,独钓寒江雪。


Word-by-word Exegesis



  江River 雪Snow
      柳LIU 宗元zongyuan (773-819)
千thousand 山mountain 鸟bird 飞fly绝none
万ten thousand 径path 人man 踪trail 灭out
孤lone 舟boat 蓑straw rain-cape 笠bamboo hat 翁old man
独solitary 钓fishing 寒cold 江river 雪snow

  I do not know whether Wallace Stevens’s famous "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" was influenced in some way or other by this famous Tang poem, which also appeared in Witter Bynner’s Jade Mountain. However, I see some affinities between Stevens’s poem and this one.
  I translate this poem because today my kid is practicing his calligraphy by writing out this poem. The first three lines from his calligraphy is copied here.



  儿子写书法,因此顺便扫描到这儿。这首诗总是令我想到史蒂文斯的《十三种看鸟的方式》,我不知道他是否受到了柳宗元的这首诗的影响,但是最早的唐诗英译都会收入这首诗,其中出版于1929年的Jade Mountain《玉山集》基于《唐诗三百首》,而译者可说是史蒂文斯的同代诗人,他这首《看鸟的方式》出版于1955年。

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