Du Mu – “Qing Ming” – a free translation
Travelers, hoping their spirits to rally,
Inquired where some good wine might be found.
The yokel pointed north, toward Napa Valley.
Instead of “Pure Brightness Festival” I chose to substitute “Memorial Day weekend” as being the culturally closest equivalent to the Chinese holiday where everyone takes off from work to honor their ancestors, causing mammoth traffic jams.
Instead of “Apricot Blossom Village” I substitute “Napa Valley”. According to my NJStar Chinese/English dictionary, 杏花村 【xìng huā cūn】 is a “village in Shaanxi province, famous among poets for its wine.” So the end line of this quatrain becomes a joke, where the shepherd boy is poking fun at the traveler.
In the Broadway musical “The Music Man”, when the traveling salesman asked an Iowa local “Where can I find a good hotel?” the local responds “Try the Palmer House in Chicago.” Same joke.
Again, the closest cultural equivalent to the famed Apricot Blossom Village would be, in modern American culture, Napa Valley in California. Hence my substitution to preserve the humor.
Too much liberty taken with this classic? Or true to the spirit, if not the word, of the original? Comment if you please…
Pure Brightness season rain confused, disorderly
On the road walkers long to change the mood
“May I ask wine shop where place has?”
Shepherd distant point Apricot Blossom Village
Travelers on the road wanting to lift their spirits
Inquired for the whereabouts of a wine shop
of a shepherd, who pointed toward Apricot Blossom Village