December 25th, 2007

yoshitoshi: caocao

Two translations

So Waley translates a poem of Ts'ao Sung's, however you write that in pinyin (and unless you can write it in pinyin you can't find anything googling, evidently: certainly not how it's written in Chinese):

A Protest in the Sixth Year of Ch'ien Fu (AD 879)

The hills and rivers of the lowland country
     You have made into your battle-ground.
How do you suppose the people who live there
     Will procure 'firewood and hay'?
Do not let me hear you talking together
     About titles and promotions;
For a single general's reputation
     Is made out of ten thousand corpses.

I know this one from an idiosyncratic, quirky but to me immensely useful book of translations called Old Friend from Far Away by C.H. Kwock and Vincent McHugh. (Someone called it a lost classic. Glad I have a copy.) Quirky because of how they lay out the poems- which necessitates me using the unwieldy rich text format for this entry, because otherwise all spaces must be hand-coded, and god knows there are spaces. Also words written above and below the lines, which I can't do in RTF but, annoyingly, could in hand-code html. 

Lowland hills and rivers
                       dragged on to the war map
              O lowland lowlands O!
Those groaning people!
how can they live?
                                       A turnip or two
                                       grubbed up
Don't talk to me
                                       about titles
                                          all that slop
One general
pulling out a victory
                                          to rot!

There's a dialogue at the end of the book between the two translators where they talk about this poem:

V.MCH: What about that 'War Year' poem we did?
C.H.K.: Oh? The Ts'ao Sung? ... remember, we thought the original was pretty flat. Just another Confucian diatribe against war.
V.MCH: Yes, but we-- or I, rather- got pretty far off it. Why did we want to do it anyhow? Because it had that strong ending about the corpses?
C.H.K.: Yes. Do you have it?
V.MCH: Your literal version? Yes, it's here.

Marshland;/ rivers(&)mountains/ (have been)included/ war map
Lowland     territories                                    (into)

People;/ (in) what/ way;/ (could)enjoy;/ sticks(&)weeds
Population;          plan;            relish;

(I) request;/ you/ never/ discuss/ (military) promotion/ matters
One/ general;/ (after)achievements/ made/ 10,0000/ bones;
                                                             numerous; corpses
                                                             (have)dried up;

C.H.K.: Yes. And you remember when we sent it out round-robin with   the other poems to the consultants... -sent the first finished version, I mean, Dr. San-su Lin and her husband Dr Paul Lin wrote us that the second line simply meant: "What can the (suffering) people do for a living now? 
I like it. It's really better than the Mandarin.
V.MCH: Oh, it's a *poem* all right, in English. But that quote from an English ballad! And the way I kept playing that open O all through the first four lines. ... The taste's all right. But it's the furthest off an original we ever got.
      You know, I feel now that almost any getting away from the text- anything you're not forced into, I mean- is probably a mistake. I wonder at myself. Why didn't I try harder to do something with that 'sticks and grasses' in line two? It's better than the turnip thing. And closer. To the fact, I mean. Everything happens in Chinese famines. Clay-eating. Cannibalism.

And here is feliciter's translation, complete with graceful rhymes:

Lowland territories marked on a war map:
Poor souls, to lose their joy of life.
Prithee speak not of spoils, old chap;
Ten thousand deaths rise from one man's strife.