TRANSLATIONS: READING RIHAKU
LI BAI aka LI PO
701 – 762
Pound's translation of Chinese poetry was maybe the most important thing I read. Eliot a little bit later.” –Robert Morgan
1. THE RIVER-MERCHANT’S WIFE: A LETTER
Translated by Ezra Pound, 1915
While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chokan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.
At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever, and forever.
Why should I climb the look-out?
At sixteen you departed,
You went into far Ku-to-yen, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.
You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden,
They hurt me.
I grow older,
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Cho-fu-Sa.
Question: Make explicit what is implicit: state in one sentence what the speaker is implying
through the tone, images and narration. What is gained by the speaker’s restraint?
According to J. H. Prynne, we infer that the above translation by Ezra Pound
) is from the
(London 6 April 1915), reprinted in
(London 1952), 140-41, because the
text shows significant
variants, particularly in lining (Lines 25-6, as above, become
line, as in
text, p. 134, but not in
Poems and Translations
, ed. Sieburth, p. 252).
(Of course, you can leave Prynne and visit textetc.com—“Translating Li Bai”—
for further commentary on the Pound translation. However, first skim over
Prynne, noting the highlighted sentences, and compare Pound with another translation or two.)