Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Dai Wangshu 戴望舒 (1905-1950): What I Said by the Grave of Xiao Hong 蕭紅墓畔口占

                                                         *          *          *
Six hours I’ve walked, a long and lonely road,
To lay beside your head, a bunch of red camellia blows.
Waiting, I’m waiting, the night, oh long, so long, 
And yet you just lie listening, to the humdrum of ocean billows.


Translated by Rita Wong & Andrew Wong   譯者:黃潘明珠 黃宏
22 February 2016 (revised 23.2.16; 24.2.16; 25.2.16; finalized 26.2.16; further revised with
notes added 1.3.16; 3.3.16)

*Form:  The original is a modern Chinese quatrain in free verse with a rhyme scheme of XAXA.  This English rendition faithfully adheres to the form and 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 蕭紅墓畔口占:  We have rendered 口占 “versified orally or impromptu” quite literally and, hopefully, more emotively as “what I said”, hence, “What I Said by the Grave of Xiao Hong”.  Xiao Hong (1911-1942) is a Chinese writer (novelist, essayist and poet) who lived in Hong Kong between 1940 and 1942.  Xiao Hong passed away in Hong Kong on 20 January 1942.  Part of her cremated ashes were buried at Repulse Bay, Hong Kong on 25 January; and on 20 November 1942, Dai visited her grave and made this poem.    
*Line 1 走六小時寂寞的長途:  We have rendered 寂寞長途 as “a long and lonely road” rather than the literal “a lonely, long trip”.
*Line 2 到你頭邊放(偷放)一束紅山茶: The poem was first published on 10 September 1944 in the Wah Kiu Yat Pao “Art and Literature Weekly Magazine” Issue #33 with the word (before the word) which disappeared when the poem was re-published on 22 January 1946 in the Sin Hwa Daily News.  We have not seriously researched into but have simply assumed this was Dai’s own revision.  If needs be, “stealthily” can be added to make “To stealthily lay…”.  We have added, at the end of the line, the word “blows” (meaning “flowers or blossoms”) to create a rhyme for “billows” in line 4, not a perfect rhyme as “blows” is masculine (stressed) while “billows” is feminine (unstressed).
*Line 3 我等待着長夜漫漫:  We have rendered 我等待着 as “Waiting, I’m waiting” after considering “I wait, I’m waiting”, “I wait, and wait”, “I’m waiting, still waiting”, etc.  For 長夜漫漫, we have used the repetition of the “ou” sound and the word “long” to produce the onomatopoeic effect of漫漫 in the original.
*Line 4 你卻卧聽着海濤閒話:  In this context, 閒話 should be taken to mean “a monologue of monotonous, repetitious small talk”, and not “gossips”, ‘complaints”, “rights and wrongs”, “digression” or “deviation”, not even “chit chat”.  We have come to consider “humdrum” the best choice.     

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