Translation: Wang Wei – Birds Calling from the Ravine
At leisure, as osmanthus flowers fall
In the still night, the mountain cloaked in spring
The moon comes out, alarms the mountain birds.
From deep within the spring ravine they call。
Another format for arranging the steps in translation – which works best? Above is my translation into English iambic pentameter, with a b c a rhyme. Below, the classic poem in simplified Chinese characters, with the Pinyin translation and word-by-word translations in second and third column next to each line. Finally a word-by-word translation and a free translation with no attempt at standard rhythm or rhyme.
鸟鸣涧 – Niao1 Ming2 Jian4
人闲桂 花落 ren2 xian2 gui4 hua1 luo4 person idle cassia/ozmanthas flower fall
夜静春山空 Ye jing4 chun1 shan1 kong1 night quiet/still spring mountain free time/empty
月出惊山鸟 yue4 chu1 jing1 shan1 niao1 moon come out startle mountain bird
时鸣春涧中 Shi2 ming2 chun1 jian4 zhong1 present/ from time to time cry of birds spring ravine in
Person idle osmanthus flower fall
Night quiet spring hill empty
Moon out startle hill birds
Constant call spring ravine in
I’m idle, as osmanthus flowers fall,
This quiet night in spring, the hill is empty.
The moon comes out and startles the birds on the hill,
They don’t stop calling in the spring ravine.