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© COPYRIGHT 2019.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Gary Young (with Yanwen Xu)

春夜喜雨

(唐)杜甫

 

好雨知时节,

当春乃发生。

随风潜入夜,

润物细无声。

野径云俱黑,

江船火独明。

晓看红湿处,

花重锦官城。

 

A Pleasing Rain on a Spring Night

The spring rain came last night

As if it knew when to arrive,

Sneaking in with the wind to dampen

And nourish everything without a sound.

The trails now are dark under the black clouds,

But sparks rise from boats on the river.

This morning, the flowers and plants

Are all bent in Jinguan City.

— Du Fu (Tang)

绝句

(唐)杜甫

 

迟日江山丽,

春风花草香。

泥融飞燕子,

沙暖睡鸳鸯。

Quatrain

 

The countryside is lovely in late spring.

The scent of fragrant blossoms drifts on the breeze.

Swallows gather mud to build their nests,

And ducks sleep side-by-side on the warm sand.

— Du Fu (Tang)

望洞庭

(唐)刘禹锡

 

湖光秋月两相和,

潭面无风镜未磨。

遥望洞庭山水翠,

白银盘里一青螺

 

Gazing at Dongting Lake

The surface of the lake harmonizes with autumn moonlight

And becomes a fogged mirror of bronze.

A hill rises from the center of Dongting Lake

Like a small green snail on a silver plate.

— Liu Yuxi (Tang)

 
 

The poems that appear in this issue were taken from the Jiangsu Elementary School Chinese Textbook, an anthology of 70 poems given to Chinese schoolchildren to aid their instruction in Standard Chinese. The poems are also meant to also introduce them to China’s rich literary history.

 

The study of these poems subtly guides students toward an appreciation of traditional Chinese virtues, culture, historical events and social etiquette. The poems are memorized by most Chinese students, and by the end of their course of study, Chinese children will have absorbed a storehouse of Chinese characters and been steeped in a cultural tradition that spans more than two thousand years. Most of the poems are considered to be classics, representative of poetry’s highest achievement.

 

These translations are not literal, as no literal translation from Chinese into American English is possible. But in the poems we have translated thus far, we have strived to mirror the emotional state and musical values of the originals. We have chosen to translate line by line and have eschewed jumbling lines within the poem. We have also aimed for the concision of the originals. Chinese is such an allusive language, we could never achieve the same concision in English, but we have tried to ring the appropriate bells, to give agency and to privilege certain characters with English equivalents.

 

Our primary motive has been to create moving poems in American English that capture as much of the original Chinese—in mood, texture and spirit—as possible.

 

— Gary Young and Yanwen Xu