mjj (flemmings) wrote,

On a roll here

More Waley:

Green, green,
The grass by the river-bank.
Thick, thick,
The willow trees in the garden.
Sad, sad,
The lady in the tower.
White, white,
Sitting at the casement window.
Fair, fair,
Her red-powdered face
Small, small,
She puts out her pale hand.
Once she was a dancing-house girl,
Now she is a wandering man's wife.
The wandering man went, but did not return.
It is hard alone to keep an empty bed.

"...from a series known as the Nineteen Pieces of Old Poetry. Some have been attributed to Mei Sheng (first century BC) and one to Fu I (first century AD. They are manifestly not all by the same hand nor of the same date."

I could have sworn Waley includes an anecdote about Pound's reaction to his translations, which IIRC came down to Ur doing it wrong. I can't find it now, but evidently Pound decided to do it right. Alas that he should decide to call this poem The Beautiful Toilet. Pejorative drift bit Shakespeare's ass ('the breath that from my mistress reeks' was not a criticism of his mistress' breath), why not Pound's?

Blue, blue is the grass about the river
And the willows have overfilled the close garden.
And within, the mistress, in the midmost of her youth,
White, white of face, hesitates, passing the door.
Slender, she puts forth a slender hand;

And she was a courtezan in the old days,
And she has married a sot,
Who now goes drunkenly out
And leaves her too much alone.

Mhh- which is a good English poem. But I find I liked it better before than I do now, because now Waley's version seems preferable.

The Old Friend guys again:
Waley had a superb knowledge of Mandarin but the ear of a second-string English Romantic. Glorious old Ezra- in Cathay, at least- was battling with the double opacity of two languages he didn't know (J note: Chinese and Japanese, in this case; I think he was working from a double translation, Chinese-> Japanese-> Fenollosa's English), plus a suspect theory about the Chinese ideogram, plus the fact that everything had a tendency to turn out Pound rather than "Rihaku" (J- Li Bai in Japanese).
An argument against having poets translate poetry, as having writers translate prose, or even edit it. Because the devil is always there, whispering 'now how can I make this *mine*?'
Tags: chinese, translation, verse

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