'Only the original series should be in character.' Rank heresy: but oh so madly and temptingly logical.
From somewhere else, quoting without book: The story doesn't need to be perfect. The story needs to be written. That should be so simple. If only the story's lack of perfection didn't get in the way of its being written.
And otherwise I finally have a copy of Vikram Seth's Three Chinese Poets. Rhymed translations from someone who knows how to rhyme.
So a few examples we've already considered:
Li Bai's farewell to Meng Haoran
Yellow Crane Terrace: my old friend bids me goodbye.And his chestnut, 静夜思
To Yangzhou in the mists and flowers of Spring he goes.
His single sail's far shadow melts in the blue void.
All I see is the sky to which the Yangtze flows.
The floor before my bed is brightMh yes well. It's the simple ones that are the real bitches to translate. However he does a not bad job with a third champing warhorse:
Moonlight- like hoarfrost- in my room.
I lift my head and watch the moon.
I drop my head and think of home.
They ask why I live in the green mountainsAnd there's a Wang Wei I rather like:
I smile and don't reply; my heart's at ease.
Peach blossoms flow downstream, leaving no trace-
And there are other earths and skies than these.
In the empty mountains, after recent rain,I think it it's even better than my favourite Robinson:
A sense of Fall comes with the evening air.
The moon is bright and shines between the pines.
Over the stones the spring-fed stream runs clear.
Bamboos rustle: washerwomen go home.
Lotuses stir: fishing boats make their way.
At its own will, the scent of Spring has gone.
But you, 'O prince of friends', of course may stay.
In the empty hills just after rainNot that I've compared the original text with either translation. But these suggest rhymed translations work best with an abab pattern (especially using half-rhymes) than with the abbb pattern (even using half-rhymes.) And rhyming couplets should be avoided, just because they go umpty-tum in English whether or no:
The evening air is autumn now
Bright moon shining between pines
Clear stream flowing over stones
Bamboos clatter- the washerwoman goes home
Lotuses shift- the fisherman's boat floats down
Of course spring scents must fail
But you, my friend, must stay.
The name of Zhu-ge Liang resounds through time.Sounds like an 18th century poet manqué. When Auden wrote 'Earth, receive an honoured guest/ William Yeats is laid to rest' he was playing with the inevitability of umpty-tum in couplets (after two unrhymed verses) and managed to turn it on its head at the end:
The statesman's likeness awes: revered, sublime.
The empire, split in three, curbed his great aim
But not the soaring feather of his fame.
He equalled Yi and Lü; if he'd gained power
Great names like Cao and Xiao would have ranked lower-
But time would not restore the Han again.
He died, devoid of hope, his plans all vain.
In the deserts of the heartBut for that to work I think you have to be a great poet-- and not working with another poet's ideas.
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.