Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Dai Wangshu 戴望舒 (1905-1950): Lines Completed by Chance 偶成

                                                           *          *          *
If spring in life arrives again,
The old, stale and stagnant waters would thaw, and thaw into streams; 
Thence, I would see again, the beaming smiles,
Hear again, the clear, cheery calls----ah these my distant, distant dreams.

These things bright and beautiful, surely, could never be gone,

Because all things bright and beautiful, do forever exist, survive;
They are, like water turned ice, just frozen,
And someday, like flowering trees, they shall blossom again and thrive.



Translated by Rita Wong & Andrew Wong  譯者: 黃潘明珠  黃宏發

22 February 2016 (revised 24.2.16; 25.2.16; finalized 26.2.16; further revised with notes added 27.2.16; 29.2.16; 1.3.16; 3.3.16)
*Form:  The original is in free verse with a rhyme scheme of XAXA XBXB; the 8 lines of the poem (in two 4-line stanzas) are of varying length.  This English rendition follows the form and the rhyme scheme.

*Author 戴望舒:   Dai Wangshu (in Chinese pinyin) is a Chinese poet (1905-1950) who lived in Hong Kong between 1938 and 1946 before and during the Japanese Occupation (1941-1945). 

*Title 偶成:  This, which means “accidentally completed”, is rendered as “Lines Completed by Chance” after considering “Fortuitous Lines”, “Lines I Just Happened to Have Written”, “Lines Just Happened to Have Been Written”, “Lines Impromptu”, ”Impromptu” and “Serendipity”.

*Line 1 如果生命的春天重到:  We had originally penned “If, in life, spring comes again” but have now decided for “If spring in life arrives again”.

*Line 2 古舊的凝水() 都嘩嘩地解凍:  We have interpreted the line to say “The old/stale frozen/stagnant waters (also means streams) would thaw to become running streams”. This is based on my preference for凝水 or 凝結了的水 “the coalesced or solidified water (of the waters or streams)” rather than 凝冰 or “the coalesced or solidified ice” which is a superfluity.  We have used “thaw” to literally translate 解凍 and a repetition of “thaw” to translate the onomatopoeic 嘩嘩.  We have added “into streams” at the end to complete the meaning of the line and to create a rhyme word for “dreams” in line 4.

*Line 3 那時我會再看見燦爛的微笑:  We have rendered 燦爛的微笑 as “the beaming smiles” rather than “your beaming smiles”.

*Line 4 再聽見明朗的呼喚----這些迢遙的夢:  We have rendered 明朗的呼喚 as “the clear, cheery calls” rather than “your clear…”, and have used a repetition of “distant” to translate the rhyming 迢遙, both words meaning “distant”.

*Line 5 這些好東西都决不會消失:  We have rendered “good” as 美好, hence, our “bright and beautiful”.  東西 “east, west” is colloquial for “things” and is rendered as such.  都决不會消失 is rendered as “surely could never be gone”.

*Line 6 因為一切好東西都永遠存在:  We have, after “do forever exist”, added “survive” so as to create an “-ive” sound to rhyme with “thrive” in line 8.

*Line 7 它們只是像水一樣凝結:  We have added “turned ice” to make clear the meaning of 凝結 “coalesced or solidified”.  We had considered the rather literal “They are just like water frozen into ice”, but have now decided to rephrase the line as “They are, like water turned ice, just frozen” with the word “just” moved from “just like” (a simple simile) to “just frozen” to bring out the implicit meaning of “not dead”.

*Line 8 而有一天會像花一樣重開:  We have rendered “flowers” as “flowering trees” to pave the way for our adding, at the end, the word “thrive” to complete the rhyme.     


  1. Long ago memories bring great nostalgia. But enjoy the blooming Spring of your grandchildren. For in their smiles, you will relive your youth and cherish your present.