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  • Julia Min

饮湖上初晴后雨 A moment from shine to rain on West Lake

饮湖上初晴后雨

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)

新版英译及赏析: 闵晓红(2023)


水光潋滟晴方好,

山色空蒙雨亦奇。

欲把西湖比西子,

淡妆浓抹总相宜。


A moment from shine to rain on West Lake


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

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

new En. trans.+annot. by: Julia Min ( Feb. 2023)


A sea of sparkling ripples when it shines,

A mystic place with misty hills in rain.

One shade the more, one ray the less,

Can barely touch the nameless grace.

A toast to West Lake for her rare beauty

Like Xishi, and her values, shine or rain.

Notes:

1. West lake: a most beautiful lake at Hangzhou near Shanghai (still a most popular tourist destination today);

2. “One shade the more, one ray the less,/had half impaired the nameless grace.” : borrowed from Byron’s famous poem “She Walks in Beauty” for an associating imagination;

3. Xishi (西施/西子): lived one of the four mostly admired beauties in ancient China, namely, Xishi, Wang Zhaojun, Diaochan and Yang Yuhuan. Xishi lived in the State of Yue during the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC).


Appreciation:

This famous poem was obviously written when Su Shi was the governor of Hangzhou (1071-1074), a place where he shared many beautiful memories with family and friends. The Hangzhou people today are still very grateful acknowledging his achievements for the region, calling him ‘The Legendary Mayor Su Shi’.


This short poem of 7-Jue verse (七绝) has been recited in schools all over China. Even my son’s maid sings it to my granddaughter to cheer her up. As in every masterpiece of art, it’s composes of easy wordings and simple associations for the mass readership, while at the same time it manifests, to the intellectual readership, his philosophical perspective at the time, or more specifically, the lake is our poet, his moral quality and strength. Indeed his whole life has been tested to the limit again and again only to prove the same outcome. Nothing could touch his heroic and romantic quality come rain or shine. A nut hard to crack for his political opponents but dearly loved for a thousand years to come.


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) ("Drinking Wine by West Lake After Rain: The waters gleam and ripple freshly after a good rain;/She’s no less rare or lovely among the misting hills./I see her captivating as Xi Zi of ancient song,/Changing pale colors for bright, and always the more beautiful.”)

2. “One shade the more, one ray the less,/had half impaired the nameless grace.” : borrowed from Byron’s famous poem “She Walks in Beauty” for an associating imagination;

3. painting from Google;


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