top of page
  • Julia Min

出狱(二首)Released from Prison

出狱(二首)

(十二月二十八日蒙恩责授检校水部员外郎黄州团练副使, 复用前韵二首)


原作: 苏轼(字子瞻, 号东坡居士; 11世纪北宋)

旧版英译:戈登.奥赛茵, 闵晓红, 黄海鹏(1990)

新版及赏析: 闵晓红(2023)


其二:

平生文字为吾累,

此去声名不厌低。

塞上纵归他日马,

城东不斗少年鸡。

休官彭泽贫无酒,

隐几维摩病有妻。

堪笑睢阳老从事,

为予投檄到江西。

(子由闻余下狱,乞以官爵赎余罪,贬筠州监酒。)


Released from Prison (Poem Two)

(I’m saved by the Emperor’s grace and granted to be relegated to the role of an assistant in the water section of Engineering Department in the town of Huangzhou, hence these two poems upon the release.)


written by Su Shi (11th AC, social name 'Dongpo')

old En. trans. by G. Osing, J. Min & H. Huang (1990)

Revision+ annot. by Julia Min (2023)


It’s writing that’s been my problem all my life.

Better be away, and let my fame decline.

A lost horse returned with her Hun mate may be

a poisoned chalice, a misfortune in disguise.

What bothers me most is my craving for wine.

I’m not the Tang cockfight boy at the town east,

Too poor like Tao Yuanmin who left Pengze Squire,

Too sick like Wang Mojie, the poet with one wife.

My silly brother gave up Suiyang for my sin,

taking a menial job in the sticks of Jiangxi Shire.


(Notes: My brother Ziyou pleaded for mercy before the Throne upon the news of my imprisonment. He petitioned to be punished on my behalf, thus being banished to a minor job as a wine supervisor at Junzhou, Jiangxi.)

Notes:

1.A lost horse returned with her Hun mate: the well-known story of a man at a village bordered with the Huns. He had a horse gone astray across the border (塞翁失马,焉知非福),and his neighbours came to comfort him only to hear him saying: it looks so unfortunate that I lost a mare. Who knows? It could bring a good outcome. Before long, the mare returned with a stallion from the Hun land. Everyone in the village came to celebrate but the old man responded: it is such a blessing I could have my horse back with another horse, but who knows, it could be the starting of a coming misfortune. The deeper philosophy behind the fable reveals the universal rules of change --- the rising and the falling are each other’s company, a constant phenomenon of duality.


2.the Tang cockfight boy: referring to the story of Tang Dynasty Emperor Xuanzong whose favorite game was cockfighting, thus the capital city Chang’an saw a boom in cockfighting business. There was one boy very talented for the game and soon won the favour of the Majesty. So the saying went popular – “You don’t have to study hard to succeed. A few cockfighting tricks can get you close to the supreme power.”


3. Tao Yuanmin: a famous poet celebrated for his personality. Born to a family of civil servants to the Royal Court, he had been a government official but his love for a carefree secluded Daoist life in the country finally led to his quitting Pengze, the county for his last post for some 80 days as the Head of the prefecture.


4.Wang Mojie, more likely refers to the famous poet Wang Wei (social name: Mojie, an influence of his mother who was a Buddhist and held Monk Weimojie in high regard.) as he had the same experience of being put into prison and his brother pleaded for mercy on his brother’s ‘sin’, willing to take a minor post as a punishment on Mojie’s behalf. Wang Wei only had one wife, and never remarried after his wife’s death, which was unusual but respected as a rare quality in ancient China.


Appreciation:

Just like an exquisite art piece with crafted flowers and figures, this short poem is enriched with four legendary stories. The first one ‘A lost horse…’ tells his deeper and self-possessed insight about the rules of change governing the ups and downs in life. The second one ‘the Tang cockfight boy’ conveys his choice to remain truthful instead of being a courtier trying to please the emperor. The following two figures Yuanmin and Mojie show the personality he’s to maintain despite poverty and poor health. A noble man of integrity and courage indeed! No wonder he had so many followers throughout the centuries.


Again, the poem is structured with a shift from the scene to his theme, with the first stanza on what he experienced followed by what he thought in the 2nd stanza. The rapids ride was highlighted with his wild imagination as in a stream of consciousness jumping from a falcon over a rabbit to lightning in a bottle. Vivid pictures flashed one after another responding with the chasing pace of the leaping boat – a clever arrangement for a stronger artistic play on the heartbeats of the readership. Another feature is the Zen humour on quietude sensed in the concluding couplet about Master Can Liao, a poet and essayist among many of his Daoist monk friends. There’s a whole chapter about Can Liao visiting him at Huangzhou followed by interesting and touching stories that I’d share at another time.


Reference:

1. Blooming Alone in Winter by Gordon Osing, Julia Min and Huang Haipeng,published by the People's Publication House Henan Province in 1990 (《寒心未肯随春态》戈登.奥赛茵,闵晓红,黄海鹏) (Relegated to the Position of Assistant Inspector of Canals -- It’s writing that’s been my problem all my life./ I’m out of the capital; who cares if my fame declines!/ The horse returning to the fort brings bad luck to the old man./ I’m not the boy who pleases the king with cockfights in olden times.// Tao Yuanmin resigned and ended up too broke to buy wine./Wei Mo, the Buddhist, too ill to let go of his table, had yet a wife./ My brother’s quit post at Suiyang (for my shame) makes me laugh;/ He took a minor job in the sticks in Jiangxi, on my behalf. ”)

2. 其一:

百日归期恰及春,余年乐事最关身。 出门便旋风吹面,走马联翩鹊啅人。 却对酒杯浑是梦,试拈诗笔已如神。 此灾何必深追咎,窃禄从来岂有因。

3. 百度百科

5. picture from Google;

bottom of page