Chinese Puzzle Box

Explorations in and about China

Translation: Meng Hao Ran #3: Waiting for Ding

Moon over the continental divideThis poem is difficult for me to translate into Western forms. Each ideograph is  laden with an entire lines’ worth of  meaning if translated into English, yet to expand the poem in this way would betray the simplicity and compactness of the original poem’s form.  My adaptation is in familiar iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme no more haphazard than that of the original.

Below is the poem in simplified Chinese characters, with the pinyin transcription so you can get a sense of the original rhyme scheme .  Next is a word for word translation, with a fairly literal sense translation line by line.

Waiting for Ding
Meng Haoran


From western peaks the sunset fades away.

The golden gorges plunging into darkness.

The moon among the pines brings evening’s coolness;

The sounds of wind and water fill the stillness.

The woodsmen have returned, spent from their day。

The birds are settling on their misty perches.

My honored guest tonight will come and stay.

I take my qin and wait along the way.

夕阳度西岭    Xi1 yang2 du4 xi1 ling3
群壑 倏已暝   Qun2 he4 shu1 yi3 ming2
松月生夜凉    Song1 yue4 sheng1 ye4 liang2
风泉满情听    Feng1 quan2 man3 qing1 ting1
樵人归欲尽    Qiao2 ren2 gui1 yu4 jin4
烟鸟栖初定    Yan1 niao3 qi1 chu1 ding4
之子期宿来    Zhi1 zi3 qi1 su4 lai2
孤琴候箩径 Gu1 qin2 hou4 luo2 jing4

Sunset sun limit west range
the setting sun defines the western range of mountains

Group gully valley swiftly then dark
Then quickly all the ravines grow dark

Pine moon begin night cool
The moon among the pines brings forth the cool of the evening

Wind spring fill clear hear
the wind is full of the bubbling sounds of a spring

Woodsmen return almost exhausted
the woodgatherers return almost exhausted

Mist birds perch first stable
In the mist the birds settle on their perches

This person expect visit come
An overnight guest is expected

Alone qin wait creeping plant turning/ path
i and my qin wait on the ivy-covered path




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