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水调歌头 黄州快哉亭赠张偓佺 To Zhang Woquan, at the Bracing Pavilion of Huangzhou


水调歌头 黄州快哉亭赠张偓佺

原作:苏轼( 11th Century)

英译旧版:戈登.奥赛茵,闵晓红(1990)

英译新版:闵晓红(2023)


落日绣帘卷,

亭下水连空。

知君为我,

新作窗户湿青红。

长记平山堂上,

欹枕江南烟雨,

杳杳没孤鸿。

认得醉翁语,

山色有无中。


一千顷,

都镜净,

倒碧峰。

忽然浪起,

掀舞一叶白头翁。

堪笑兰台公子,

未解庄生天籁,

刚道有雌雄。

一点浩然气,

千里快哉风。

To Zhang Woquan,at the Bracing Pavilion of Huangzhou

- to the tune “River Tune’s First Notes”


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

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

En. revision by: Julia Min ( Feb. 2023)


The embroidered curtains rolled at sunset,

the river before the porch runs to the sky.

The scarlet ink is shining, paint still wet,

just for me, this window, this splendid sight.

I often recall my times at the Hall of Mt Ping

for the mist and rains of River South’s spring.

The best view was from the window on my pillow.

Some lonely goose would fly by and out of sight.

“The hills appear to disappear” in drifting smoke….

I could taste Xiu’s thinking in his drinking ci poem.



The river by the pavilion spreads far and wide,

like broad sea, mirrors easily all the green peaks.

A wind rises, lifting as if a white leaf yonder --

an old boy in his boat winding down the river,

as free as a bird on wind, as light as a feather….

I can’t help but laugh at Song Yu’s nonsense here.

He couldn’t understand Zhuang Zi on moving air,

but went on fooling the king with male and female.

Just look there, a fearless spirit and a strong wind

are all you need to sail rocky waters on your feet.


Notes:

1. ‘the Bracing Pavilion’: built by Zhang Woquan, who, like Su Shi, was banished to Huangzhou, a small town by the Yangtze River. They became good friends and often spent time here at this pavilion overlooking the river view.

2. ‘Xiu’: Ouyang Xiu (Aug 6, 1007 – Sept 22, 1072), was a historian, a poet, an artist and the leading scholar of the Royal Hanlin Academy in the Song Dynasty. He was deeply impressed by the talent of the Su brothers and once said to his son: “This man (Su Shi) would become so famous that I would be forgotten by the world.” He had been loved and respected like the best teacher to Su Shi ever since the Imperial Exam. Xiu had a pavilion built at Yangzhou’s Mt. Ping for a magnificent view of the rivers, lakes and hills, giving it the name “Hall of Mt. Ping”. Dongpo, our poet, likens himself here to his teacher.

3. ‘River South’: a term for the large territory south of the Yellow River before it emerges into the East Sea. River South has been regarded as the richest and most beautiful place in China over many millennia, including Yangzhou, Hangzhou, etc.

4. ‘my pillow’: both Xiu and Dongpo were once the local mayors of Yangzhou, so it’s just natural that Hall of Mt Ping became Dongpo’s favourite spot to socialize with his friends.

5. ‘Song Yu’: (宋玉)a handsome and talented prose writer (298-222 B.C.) in the Warring States period. Su Shi called him ‘the Lord at Orchid Platform’ in this poem as it was here the king (Chu State)’s asked Yu: The wind passing me and the wind passing the common subjects are the same or different? Song Yu replied that the wind passing the king absorbed the royal vibes so it became noble with masculine quality of heroic vibes, whereas the wind passing the common subjects had seen all the miseries of the poor became humble, thus it would bear the weak feminine qualities. He was a productive and influential writer with strong imprint of Qu Yuan. Works include “On Wind”, “My Reply to the King’s Question”,… His comment about the winds are also interpreted by some critics as a hidden irony against the king implying the people suffered heavily under his sovereign.

6. ‘Zhuang Zi”: the great philosopher Zhuang Zhou (庄周/庄子)of the Warring States ( 475-221 B.C.). He define sound/music into three categories – heavenly sounds ( wind, rain, birds singing, waterfall…), earthly sounds (wind interacted with earth such as a hole, a forest, …) and human sounds (music played on instruments).


Appreciation:

This is another heroic poem Dongpo wrote at Huangzhou after “Meditating on the Past at the Red Cliff” which was widely embraced by his contemporary scholars, including the emperor himself. This was again an immediate success and the last couplets of both stanzas have been very popular as being so often quoted in literature. Daoism has always been a great saviour / guide to transcend from a downturn, not to mention Dongpo had been a big reader of Zhuangzi, the famous philosopher of Daosim after Laozi. Zhuangzi often talked about Lie Zi (列子) who rode the wind after he let go of the weight of human purposes and worldly attachments. When the mind barrier separating himself and the external world had disappeared, so had the heaviness of his bones and flesh. Lie Zi said in his book Lieh Tzu as translated by Eva Wong: “Without knowing it, I was being carried by the wind. Drifting here and there, I did not know whether I rode on the wind or the wind rode on me.” There’s a famous story in the book Zhuangzi as translated by Watson Translation: “Suddenly he woke up …… But he didn't know if he was Zhuang Zhou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that he was Zhuang Zhou..” See the connection? The message here in this poem is all about the transformation, the transcendence for the union with the universe. There’s no good or bad, noble or humble, rich or poor, right or wrong. These are just social concepts tailor-made for the human world of duality which provides the soil for spirit to transcend and grow. Such realization had inspired Dongpo in his heroic vibes manifested in his poetry, prose, paintings and calligraphy which in turn inspired many generations since then. I reckon it’s the real value and ultimate distinction between heroic school and the sentimental school in ci poems of China.


This ci poem is also well structured. The first stanza paints the broad background landscape zooming in and out for a yin-yang effect, enriched with a happy moment of the past highlighted with a famous historical figure Ouyang Xiu, hinting the good days of his official career when he was appreciated and promoted by his teacher. The second stanza reveals his Daoist desire to retreat from the world of duality. His inclination was let go of the social values and become one with heaven and earth to experience a life free as a bird and as light as a feather.


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)("The embroidered curtain rolled at sunset, /the river beneath the porch disappears into sky./Just for me, this window, this scene, /the ink and scarlet shining, wet paint./I find myself recalling times of Ouyang Xiu /Gazed from his pillow south along the river at the smoke and rains. /And in the farthest distance saw no lonely wild-goose./I seem to see that drinker’s words, /“Mountains appear to disappear.”//The river is a thousand miles wide, /mirrors easily all the green peaks. /A wind rises in the distance, /lifting a white-haired bird on a leaf, /an old boy in his boat. /Here I can laugh at the feudal sprout of Lantai /Who can’t understand Zhuang Zhou’s theory of moving air, /Who pretends royal-male and ordinary-female are its categories. /Here, just that old boy’s spirit is enough to live in the strongest winds. ")

2. painting from google;

 




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