Chinese Puzzle Box

Explorations in and about China

Translation: Meng Hao Ran #4: To Buddhist Priest Yuan

cemeterySLCMy translation of this classic poem is at the top, followed by the simplified characters and pinyin transcription and the word-by-word translation at the end.

Shakespeare’s sonnet # 73 is similar in tone to this poem and uses the same metaphor of a dying fire.  I include it at the bottom as a parallel reference.  (No Chinese translation yet, but I may give it a try).

I often wish me in my grave for good;

In life a poor man walks a bitter road.

The Northern land was never my desire.

I miss my teacher in the eastern wood

The laurels burnt to flecks of ash and fire

My lofty goals were worn down by the years

The sun goes down, a chilly wind appears

Even the crickets song seems full of tears.


一丘常欲卧     Yi1 qiu1 chang2 yu4 wo4

三径苦无资     San1 jing2 ku3 wu2 zi1

北土非吾原     Bei3 tu3 fei1 wu2 yuan4

东林怀我师     Dong1 lin2 huai2 wo3 shi1

黄金燃桂尽     Huang2 jin3 ran2 gui4 jin4

壮志逐年衰    Zhuang4 zhi4zhu2 nian2 shuai1

日夕凉风至    ri4 xi1 liang2 feng1 zhi4

闻蝉但益悲    wen2 chan2 dan4 yi4 bei1

one hillock/grave often desire /wish lie

three path bitter not/there is no money/support

north land counter to/wrong I/myself original/raw/ level

East forest yearn for/cherish my teacher/master

Golden ignite/light laurel exhausted/spent

 Lofty ideals one by one/ drive out  year wane/ decline

 Sun set cool wind to/until/most

 Hear cicada/cricket nevertheless/merely increase sad / sorrowful / compassion


Sonnet  73,  W. Shakespeare

That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang

Upon those boughts which shake against the cold

Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thour seest the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west,

which by and by black night doth take away,

Death’s second self, that seals up all  in rest.

In me thou seest the glowing of such fire

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the deathbed whereon it must expire,

Consumed with that which it was nourished by.

        This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

        To love that well which thou must leave ere long.


Single Post Navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: