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Old 09-04-2017, 04:29 PM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Default Shijing 2

Translation (revised)

The kudzu is spreading,
extending through the valley,
its foliage lush.
Siskins in flight
gather in the vines,
sounding cheep, cheep.

The kudzu is spreading,
extending through the valley,
its foliage dense.
I cut it and steam it
to make fine and coarse cloth,
clothing I won't tire of.

I tell my nurse,
tell her I'm going home.
I clean my underwear,
I wash my clothes.
Which are washed? Which not?
I'm going to visit my parents.


S1L2/S2L2: to --> through
S3L6: visiting --> going to visit


Translation (original + light revisions)

The liana is spreading
down to the valley center,
its foliage lush.
Orioles in flight
gather in the vines,
their song harmonious.

The liana is spreading
down to the valley center,
its foliage dense.
I cut it and steam it
to make fine and coarse cloth,
clothing I won't tire of.

I tell my nurse,
tell her I'm going home.
I clean my underwear,
I wash my clothes.
Which are washed? Which not?
I'm going to visit my parents.


S1L1, S2L1: kudzu --> liana
S1L2, S2L2: through --> down to
S3L6: off --> going


Original + Legge's translation



From here.

Waley's translation

How the cloth-plant spreads
Across the midst of the valley!
Thick grow its leaves.
The oriole in its flight
Perches on that copse,
Its song is full of longing.

How the cloth-plant spreads
Across the middle of the valley!
Close grow its leaves,
I cut them and steam them,
Make cloth fine and coarse,
For clothes that will not irk me.

I will go to my nurse,
I will tell her I am going home.
Here I sud my shift,
Here I wash my dress.
Which things are clean and which not?
I am going to comfort my parents.

Last edited by Aaron Novick; 09-14-2017 at 08:32 AM.
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Old 09-07-2017, 04:25 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Aaron N.,

I prefer Legge’s translation for a number of reasons.

“Kudzu” is just too Japanese; Waley’s “cloth-plant” is alright but I like discovering “dolichos” and then inferring that it is a vine.

Also, in Legge’s translation (and I suspect in the original), it is clear that the vines start on the sides of the valley and grow to its lowest point—its middle. A valley doesn’t really have a “center,” does it?

I also prefer Legge’s “yellow birds” to Waley’s “orioles.” They’re just yellow birds—no need for the species here.

I think “off to visit my parents” strikes the wrong tone. Furthermore, Legge’s translation is the only one that makes the visit a return home: “I’m going back to visit my parents.” I like that.
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Old 09-08-2017, 07:56 AM
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Thank you, Aaron. There is a lot in Legge's translation that is very ugly—he indulges in the common tendency to take the compact Chinese and expand it into English oblivion. But I will try to save what is good in his translation in the more compact form I favor.

I've taken the first two and the last suggestions in one form or another, though the context makes sufficiently clear that this is a return visit, so I see no need to add that bit of over-explanation (which is not in the Chinese) to the poem, as Legge did.

I will need to talk to my wife before making a decision regarding the birds.
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Old 09-11-2017, 09:13 AM
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Revised translation posted.

I have gone back to 'kudzu'. That's what the plant is. It's not a dolichos, which is used for food, not clothing, as far as I can tell. Maybe it's unfortunate that the English name derives from the Japanese, but it can't be helped.

I've revised the second line to work in "extending," which is in the Chinese, and to cut out "center."

The birds are not just yellow birds; they are a specific species. But they aren't orioles, they are siskins.

The sound of the birds in line six is onomatopoetic in the Chinese. Now it is in the English, too.

I've revised the last line, because I agree with Aaron that "I'm off" is tonally wrong. But I think the context makes sufficiently clear that it's a return visit without specifying so explicitly. Unfortunately, I know of no way to replicate in English the fact that the Chinese uses a special word that does refer specifically to a married woman returning to visit her parents.
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Old 09-13-2017, 07:58 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Aaron, I much prefer your current revision. I have warmed to "Kudzu" in this translation from the Chinese. I think I would prefer "extending through the valley" to "extending to". Also, the last line is better tonally but now there's no expression of intent. "I'm visiting my parents" makes it sound as if the speaker is already visiting her parents rather than going to visit her parents. I would suggest "I'm going to visit my parents."
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Old 09-13-2017, 08:29 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Aaron,

I think your great talent here is in condensing. My Classical Chinese is scant, and developing slowly (I get distracted by the next shiny language before coming back, cyclically, to ones I've moved on from), but you're able to get precise language down in a way that the Legge doesn't.

My concern--and it's one I often have about Waley's translations--is that your version is great in inner ear and in the mind, but not yet there for the outer ear (at least not yet mine). It's hard to get a consistent rhythm in reading it (I can force two beats per line, mostly, but it doesn't sound natural), and I wonder if it might be worth tinkering with the lines to get more of the musicality of the original Song into your translation. Not necessarily rhyme or anything, but a more stable beat per line maybe?
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Old 09-14-2017, 08:40 AM
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Aaron, thanks. I've taken both suggestions. I wish I could condense the last line more, but it may not be possible.

Andrew, thanks for the compliment and critique. The difficulty regarding the musicality is that a bunch of the lines will be bloated if stretched to three beats, but others just can't be taken down to two without severe loss. Here's the number of beats I hear per line:

S1: 2 / 3 / 2 / 2 / 3 / 2
S2: 2 / 3 / 2 / 2 / 2 / 3
S3: 2 / 3 / 3 / 2 / 3 / 3

Ultimately, I tend to think that bloat is worse than unevenness, which is why I've gone the way I've gone. But I'll keep toying with it and see if I can't get something more sonically pleasant.
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