Literary Translation of the "Thinking of You"

Literary Translation of the “Thinking of You”

Traditional Chinese poetry translation is used to be a hot topic in literary translation. “Thinking of You” is one of the masterpieces of Dongpo Su. Here I have collected two excellent editions for study.

  1. 1.   Edition of Yuanchong Xu

How long will the full moon appear?
Wine cup in hand, I ask the sky.
I do not know what time of the year
’Twould be tonight in the palace on high.
Riding the wind, there I would fly,
Yet I’m afraid the crystalline palace would be,
Too high and cold for me.
I rise and dance, with my shadow I play.
On high as on earth, would it be as gay?

The moon goes round the mansions red
Through gauze-draped window soft to shed
Her light upon the sleepless bed.
Why then when people part, is the oft full and bright?
Men have sorrow and joy; they part or meet again;
The moon is bright or dim and she may wax or wane.
There has been nothing perfect since the olden days.
So let us wish that man
Will live long as he can!
Though miles apart, we’ll share the beauty she displays.

  1. 2.   Edition of Yutang Lin

How rare the moon, so round and clear!
With cup in hand, I ask of the blue sky,
“I do not know in the celestial sphere
What name this festive night goes by?”
I want to fly home, riding the air,
But fear the ethereal cold up there,
The jade and crystal mansions are so high!
Dancing to my shadow,
I feel no longer the mortal tie.

She rounds the vermilion tower,
Stoops to silk-pad doors,
Shines on those who sleepless lie.
Why does she, bearing us no grudge,
Shine upon our parting, reunion deny?
But rare is perfect happiness–
The moon does wax, the moon does wane,
And so men meet and say goodbye.
I only pray our life be long,
And our souls together heavenward fly!

However, the title of this poetry has been translated into “Thinking of You”. It adopted the main theme of the whole poetry and expressed miss and emotion of the poet. We can analyze how these beautiful sentences transferred from traditional Chinese situation into English- such a brief and direct language.

The translation editions have come into another unique style. Mr Xu and Mr Lin are outstanding translators in China literary academia. But do these excellent translation editions can fully reflect all affections that have contained in such a symmetry and neatly poetry?

There are many Metonymy modes in traditional expresses since the implied statements are used to be fine and appreciated. For example, staring at the moon is used to mean the strong misses. Losing of rhyme is also a big problem. Just as the unpleasant greenness and astringency we got from the translated Chinese poetries.

As an unique style of literary works, poetry is living in abundant classic and national elements which cannot be replaced easily. Built to precision and is constantly strive for excellence is the specific charm of translation.

Read Also: Translate or Not: Repetition in Literary Translation (Cont)

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