Saturday, January 21, 2012

464. Moon Faraway Person Thinking

Looking at the Moon and Thinking of One Far Away


海上生明月, 天涯共此時。
情人怨遙夜, 竟夕起相思。
滅燭憐光滿, 披衣覺露滋。
不堪盈手贈, 還寢夢佳期。

Over the sea the moon
brightens heaven, brings
to separated hearts
thoughts in the night.

It is no darker
though I blow out my candle.
It is no warmer
though I put on my coat.

So I leave my message
with the moon,
and I go to my bed
hoping for dreams.

-- 張 九 齡 Zhang Jiuling

Translator's note: I hope your computer is able to read and transmit the Chinese characters of the original poem, if for no other reason than that they are so concise and elegant! A difficulty arises in all translations from the Chinese (or Japanese) in that the brevity and directness of the style causes all kinds of technical problems in attempts to reproduce the content in English while adhering to the driving spirit of the poem. The mental worlds surrounding our varied languages and ways of thinking are different, of course, and never more so than when dealing with faraway cultures. Although this poem was composed more than a thousand years ago it is as fresh as the day it was written! You will notice there are three 4-line stanzas in the translation whereas the original is composed of 4 separate stanzas made up by each horizontal line divided into two sections of five Chinese characters apiece. The first stanza of the translation actually combines the first two stanzas of the original, i.e the first half of the poem. This was done on purpose by me in order to maintain the velocity as well as the content of the poem ... and if you can understand that, welcome to the world of translation!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

463. Rewrites

The road was a ribbon of moonlight across the purple moor
when the highwayman came riding, riding up to my front door.
Sirrah, raged he, in tones of dudgeon and high incense:
no more delay, I pray, please pay for your TV license!


Come pensive nun, devout and pure,
sober, steadfast and demure.
Let's go out and have some fun:
we'll dance the fandango and the tango,
and I'll have you home by half past one.


There is sweet music here which softer lies
thn tired eyelids upon tired eyes;
when it gets too much I make it stop
and switch my iPod to hip hop.


The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold
and his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
with ulullating cries they surrounded my car,
and sold me five rugs and a bug in a jar.


When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I think of fine ladies I have caught
and hope the latest won't be the last.


I will arise now and go to Inisfree,
and a cabin I will build there of clay and wattles made;
nine whiskey stills shall I have there, all made just for me,
smoke dope in a purple glow, then doze off in the shade.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
And I remember how he said to me,
you can't take pleasure with you,
you must take your pleasures now,
with girls brought in from Vegas
and gamblers from Macau.


No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
This much is surely plain.
Half-serious, half glitter and tinsella,
A man is in fact a peninsula.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

462. Sussex

Down the village street she goes,
past Tescos, past the illiterate graffiti
delimiting horizons. Wee Timmy & Sheila
are away with the mother, never him,
and beyond is the sea, Portsmouth!
I’ll join the Navy, lose ten stone
and stop shopping at the Paki corner store,
every lost ounce will keep Britain free
as once it were before.

Now the French are over the sea ,
behaving themselves,
and the good old days are o’er;
I can’t go running down the docks
like I did with Maggie and Silly Liz
nor act the happy whore. My life
will change, you’ll see, and a range
of opportunities, those things

will open out before me, no more
charity communities, no more
pill-popping take on life. I will
attack France, they seem to need it,
and they are right across the water
within, you might say, spitting distance.
Never mind Iraq and Afghanistan
so far the fuck away you’d be having no interest.
You need wars with people you know.