Thursday, October 19, 2017

Elegy for Monggojeje

The 20th of October this year marks the beginning of the ninth lunar month according to the traditional calendar. It was in the ninth lunar month, 416 years ago, that Nurhaci’s young wife Monggojeje died. The following passage from the Manju-i yargiyan kooli tells of her death, and its effect on Nurhaci.

In describing Monggojeje the text departs from the usual narrative style of the Yargiyan kooli and adopts instead a poetic form with vivid imagery, ragged short lines, and a kind of rhyme involving the repeated use of verbs ending in -kū. I believe this may be the oldest surviving Manchu poem, though it has probably suffered at the hands of a few editors between the time that it was originally composed and when it was printed in its final version.

The prose section following the poem is raw and brutal. Nurhaci has Monggojeje’s four handmaidens “follow her” in death, and over seven days he sacrifices a hundred horses and a hundred cattle. He wages war on Yehe because they refused to allow Moggojeje’s mother to visit her when she was sick, captures two walled towns and seven villages, and brings back two thousand captives.

tere aniya bolori uyun biya de manju gurun i taidzu sure beilei dulimbai amba fujin nimeme urihe.

In the ninth month of that year, the middle principal wife of the Wise Prince Taizu became sick and died.

    fujin-i hala nara    The lady’s clan was Nara,
    gebu monggojeje    Her name was Monggojeje,
    yehei gurun-i yangginu beilei sargan jui,    The daughter of Prince Yangginu of Yehe,
    juwan duin se de,    when she was fourteen
    taizu sure beile de holboho,    she married the Wise Prince Taizu.
    banjin fiyan saikan    Lovely in appearance,
    jaluka biyai adali hojo bime,    beautiful like the full moon,
    banin mujilen onco urgun,    generous of heart and happy,
    ujen ginggun    respectful of what is important 
    sure mergen gisun dahasu,    obedient to wise words,
    saišaha seme balai urgunjerakū    not vainly pleased by praise.
    ehe gisun be donjiha seme,    On hearing slander
    da banin i urgun i fiyan be gūwaliyandarakū,    her happy countenance was undisturbed. 
    angga ci ehe gisun tucirakū.    wicked words never left her mouth,
    haldaba saišabukū be yebelerakū.    displeased with flattery and admiration,
    acuhiyan koimali be saišarakū,    she never praised sycophancy and deceit,
    hetu weile, facuhūn gisun be donjirakū.    she never listened to gossip and insubordinate talk,
    mujilen be wacihiyame taidzu sure beilei gūnin de acabume.     she completely harmonized her mind with the Wise Prince Taizu’s thoughts,
    daci dubentele sain be akūmbufi.    from beginning to end she strove to do good,
    ufaraha endebuhe ba akū.    she had neither fault nor flaw.

taidzu sure beile haji fujin ofi delheme yadame fujin i takūraha duin sain hehe be dahabuha.

Because the beloved lady had passed away, the Wise Prince Taizu had the four good women who were employed by the lady follow her.

morin tanggū ihan tanggū wame nadan waliyaha.

He made seven sacrifices, killing one hundred horses and one hundred cattle.

taidzu sure beile emu biya funceme arki nure omirakū. yali jeterakū. inenggi dobori akū songgome.

For more than a month, the Wise Prince Taizu drank neither liquor nor wine, ate no meat, and wept day and night.

giran be hūwai dolo sindafi sinagalame ilan aniya oho manggi. giran be hūwa ci tucibufi niyaman alin gebungge munggan de eifu be sindaha.

He placed her body in the courtyard, and after three years of mourning, had her body taken out of the courtyard and placed in the mausoleum called Heart Mountain.

tereci taidzu sure beile haji fujin, eme be acaki seci unggihe akū de korsofi niowanggiyan muduri aniya, aniya biyai ice jakūn i inenggi, yehe be dailame cooha jurafi, juwan emu de, yehei jang, akiran gebungge juwe hoton be afame gaifi, tere goloi nadan gašan be gaiha.

The Wise Prince Taizu was angry that they had not sent the beloved lady’s mother to see her when she asked, and so on the eighth day of the first month of the Green Dragon Year he set out with an army to wage war on Yehe. On the eleventh day they attacked and captured the cities of Yehe called Jang and Akiran, and seized the seven villages of that district.

juwe minggan olji be bahafi cooha bederehe.
They took two thousand captives, and the army returned.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Poems about feelings

My first impression of the Verses on Red Leaves is that it is too sentimental for my taste. But if I look past my own personal preferences and ask why this poem exists and what it is trying to say, I find that it has an interesting kind of depth. It is not really about autumn leaves, but about the feeling of seeing autumn leaves.

Like the Lament on the State of the Times, this poem is written in a way that is completely divorced from any particular era, place and person. We don't know where it is that red leaves are falling, or what kind of trees they are falling from, and we don't know who sees them. All we know, by the end of the poem, is how the narrator felt. Each couplet expresses some aspect of that feeling in a semi-independent way.

The first two couplets introduce the theme. Like many introductory couplets, both lines of the first couplet rhyme, and the rhyme of the poem reflects the theme (fulgiyan, “red”, is an an-rhyme). The mongniohon of the second line means “gasping for breath” (according to Norman) and describes the narrator’s physiological response to the scene.

Part of the experience of surprise is confusion, which begins with the narrator not being able to identify the source of the brilliant color. In lines 5-12, the narrator walks in slow-motion through a pantomime of confusion, mis-identifying the brilliance as lighting, rainbows, a forest fire, or morning clouds illuminated by the sun.

At line 13 the confusion is resolved, the narrator looks closely, and understands that the source of these brilliant colors is a pink autumn wood. From the tension of surprise we move to a more relaxed enjoyment of the experience. The colors are compared to peaches and apricots, and even the biting frost is compared to the flush of wine.

In the final couplet, the narrator departs the scene in a carriage, which he hopes will bring him to a halt in the springtime.

One of the interesting features of the poem is that the couplets can really stand on their own as self-contained expressions of feeling. This could make the poem ripe for allusion, because you could pull out a single couplet and re-use it somewhere else. It will be interesting to see how often one Manchu poem alludes to another in this way.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Verses on Red Leaves

The poems in the 14th fascicle of Staatsbibliothek 34981 often focus on a single concrete theme, like a still life painting, and reveal little or nothing about the poet’s inner mind except the emotional response to the scene. With autumn setting in, I thought I would share Verses on Red Leaves. Like all of the Staatsbibliothek poems, no author is named. This is a seven-syllable couplet poem with an -an rhyme.

I imagine the setting to be a clear, crisp autumn day. The poet, looking out from his carriage, sees the wooded slopes and is astonished by the brilliance of the fall colors.

fulgiyan abdaha be irgebuhengge     

A Composition on Red Leaves

jing sigara erin fon,The season of the ever falling leaves,
alin bira mongniohon.

mountains and rivers are breathtaking.

gūnihakū gūwaliyapi,They have unexpectedly transformed
elemangga gincihiyan.

to become all the more bright.

5umai agahakūbi,It has not rained at all,
aide kejine talkiyan.

so how is there so much lightning?

maka tulhušehenio,Could it really be cloudy?
ainci gocika nioron.

It seems rainbows have appeared.

dekjin tuwa ai tayahao,Has a forest fire broken out?

ainu akū ai šanggiyan.

Why is there no smoke?

tugi šun de fosokoo,Are the clouds lit by the sun?
abai daruhai jaksan.

How is it like a constant morning sky?

cincilame tuwaha de,If you look closely
dule jamu moo bujan.

it is really a pink wood.

15dubei bolori fonde,At the end of autumn
tuwabun nememe saikan.

the scene is even more beautiful.

toro guilege waka,It is neither peach nor apricot
encu hacin nilgiyan.

but another kind of glow.

abka dembei faksi,Nature is an artisan of high degree

boco soningga hihan.

its colors are precious and rare.

gecen eniken dame,The frost has only begun to bite,
bahabuha nurei fiyan.

like the drunken flush of wine.

yala tuwamehanggai ten,So exceedingly lovely,
beikuwen erin sabugan.

the experience of the cool season.

25aga silenggi aibi,How can the rain and the dew
ini cisui gincihiyan.

shine of their own accord?

sejen ilinjicina,Let the carriage come to a stop,
ilha sarašara the flower-strolling half-month.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Jakdan’s predecessors

Despite the glowing praise that Jakdan receives in the preface for being an expert translator of poetry, he wasn't the translator of the first poem in his collection—or at least he wasn't the only translator, or the first.

The Kangxi emperor apparently produced two works (or two versions of a single work) titled A Free and Unfettered Poem (逍遙詞), of which Jakdan chose the second version as the opening poem for his collection. Despite the carefree feel of the original title, Jakdan calls his version A Lament on the World (Ma. jalan be nasara uculen, Ch. 嘆世詞). In fact, I think some of the wording may have been changed to make it more mournful, but that will have to wait for another blog post.

I say that Jakdan’s translation of this poem is not completely original because much the same Manchu text can also be found, without a Chinese parallel text, in a volume at the Bibliothèque nationale de france. At the end of the BNF poem there is a date of Kangxi 60 (1721), which was probably 60 years before Jakdan was born. Of course that may be a date associated with the original poem and not of the translation, but I believe most of the Manchu materials at the BNF were gathered during the Jesuit missions, which ended with the expulsion of the Jesuits in the mid-18th century. Even if one discounts the date at the end of the poem, it would be quite a stretch to date this text to any time in Jakdan's lifetime.

The most reasonable explanation, I think, is that Jakdan included this earlier translation because he considered it an excellent work, and wanted to begin by paying homage to a predecessor, or to the tradition of poetic translation itself. Perhaps he started with a slightly different version of the text, and maybe he made some minor changes that he saw as improvements, but overall he left much of it alone.

An interesting feature of this poem is that it “works” in both Manchu and Chinese. As a Chinese poem it has an -ang rhyme, and as a Manchu poem it has an -a rhyme. In fact, I have seen nothing textual to say whether the poem was originally composed in Chinese or Manchu, or whether it was composed in both languages at the same time (as was probably done for some other imperial poems.)

Here are the Manchu versions:


Jakdan Manchu

han-i araha emu meyen-i uculen

jalan be nasara uculen

bithei urse,bithei urse,
usin-i haha,usin-i haha,
weilere faksi,weilere faksi,
hūdai niyalma,hūdai niyalma,
inenggidari kata fata,inenggidari kata fata,
niyalma banjifi, niyalma banjifi
erebe gaisuerebe gaju 
terebe gama,terebe gama,
hendure balame,hendure balama
wesihun fusihūn teisu bi,wesihun fusihūn teisu bi,
jabšara ufararangge,jabšara ufararangge
bodoro mangga,bodoro mangga,
gin gu-i yafan,ai gin gu yafan
bolori edun,bolori edun,
u giyang ni bira,u giyang ula
dobori biya,dobori biya,
o fang gurung fulahūn,o fang gurung fulahūn,
tung ciyo kara aba,tung ciyo kara aba,
dule emgeri haṇ dan-i gese tolgišaha,dule emgeri haṇ dan-i gese tolgišaha,
yargiyan-i nasacuka,
yargiyan-i usacuka,
erebe saci,
abka be sebjeleme,damu abka de sebjeleme
hesebun be sacina,hesebun be sacina,
teisu be dahame,teisu be dahame
an be tuwakiya,an be tuwakiya,
nenehe wang,nenehe han
amaga wang serebe ai gana,amaha han sere ai tusa,
yendehe gurun,yendehe gurun
gukuhe gurun serebe, ai gana,gukuhe gurun sere ai ganaha,
bucere hanci uksalara de mangga,bucere hamici ukcara de mangga,
julgeci baturu haha siran siran-i ufaraha,julgeci ebsi baturu kiyangkiyan sa siran siran-i ufaraha,
muduri taktu,
garudai-i leose serebe jocina,
aisi jugūn,
gebu tangka serebe yakacina,
derengge saikan iletu ilgai dele,yala derengge saikan ilhai dele 
bayan wesihun orhoi dubei gecen dabala,bayan wesihun orhoi dubei gecen secina,
jalan-i baita uttu oho be saci,jalan-i baita be tuwaci gemu uttu be dahame,
yendere gukure be aiseme mujilen de dara,yendere gukure be aiseme mujilen de dara,

muduringga taktu

garudai asari sere be jocina,

aisi-i jugūn

gebu-i tangka sere be naka,
yargiyan-i nisicuka-i usacuka,

jabduha ucuri ekisaka tefi,
alin-i dalba,
bigan tala,
aba saha,
sula tehe de,
irgebun irgebume,irgebun nure-i emgi sebjeleme bicina,
nure omime,
gūnin-i cihai emgeri gingsifi bedereci,emgeri gingsici, bedererengge
ai tookan,ai tookan,
emgeri uculefi,emgeri uculeci,
šanyan muke buru bara,mederi muke buru bara,

edun biya be irgebume,

buyecuke sur sere be baihana,
hacingga ilha ilaci,hacingga ilha ilaci,
alha bulha geren gasha guwendeci,alha bulha, geren gasha guwendeci,
jiji jaja,jiji jaja,

alin-i dalba,

muke-i dalba,

bigan tala

aba saha,
ere nergin de absi saišacuka,ere nergin absi saišacuka,
taka emu coman nure be wacihiya,taka emu coman nure be wacihiya,
yasa habtašara sidende,yasa habtašara sidende
juwe erei šulu herecun akū de šaraka.juwe erei šulu herecun akū šaraka.

elhe taifin-i ninjuci aniya

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Jakdan's Preface

The following is a rough translation of the preface to Jakdan's eight-fascicle work of translations and original compositions. I'm pretty sure I've gotten the general gist, but I will probably come back to it and fiddle with the details over the next week.

I suppose it may have been written by Haiyu, but it isn't clear.

irgebun uculen be ubaliyambuha bithei šutucin.

Preface to the book of translations of poetry and songs

sio feng ja halangga agu serengge, sede oho bime tacire de amuran, gala ci bithe hokoburakū, yala amgacibe getecibe manju bithe debi, omirelame jeterelame ubaliyambure babe gūnirengge secina.

The gentleman Xiufeng (秀峰) of the Ja (扎) clan, being of a certain age and loving to learn, whether asleep or awake he is at his Manchu books, a book never leaving his hands. I would say he is thinking about points of translation even while he is drinking and eating.

tere inenggi de agu-i ubaliyambuha irgebun uculen ucun gargangga ucun be gajifi fusihūn minde tuwabuha bime, geli šutucin arakini serede, fusihūn bi ini gūnin be jendu gaime, fisembume hendume ubaliyambumbi serengge, terei nikan hergen-i gūnin be sibkifi, manju gisun-i ubaliyamburengge kai.

One day he brought the poetry and songs that he had translated and allowed me to see them, and when he said that someone should write a preface to it, I understood his unspoken thought, and obliquely said, "Translation means examining the meanings of the Chinese characters and rendering that into the Manchu language.

nikan hergen be sibkiha, manju gisun-i ubaliyambume jabduha manggi, udu gisun ubaliyambure mudan acabure, sijirhūn ubaliyambure forgošome ubaliyambure lakcabure sirabure nemebure meiterei adali akū ba bicibe, unenggi anggai mudan fuhali yargiyan ome, gisun-i ici yala acaname muteci, tuwarala urse, esi šungkengge ocibe arsaringge ocibe, gemu ferguwebuci ome ofi, faitan be tuwara adali getuken, falanggū be jorire gese iletu ojorakūngge akū ombi

After you examined the Chinese characters and rendered them into the Manchu language, even though there may have been places where it did not seem possible to translate the words, to match the rhyme, to render the straightforward as well as the convoluted, to expand on what is terse and to reduce what is verbose, nonetheless you have created truly natural rhymes, and you have indeed been able to fit them correctly to the words, such that all who see them, whether they be people of refinement or ordinary folks, they might all wonder at it. Everything is as clear as looking at an eyebrow, as plain as pointing at the palm of the hand.

aika irgebun uculen ucun gargangga ucun be ubaliyamburengge oci, šu fiyelen be ubaliyambure ci uthai cingkai encu ohobi.

If this is what it means to translate verse, poetry, songs and lyrics, then it is something utterly different from the translation of essays.

aici šu fiyelen oci, golmin foholon-i gisun bimbime, mudan uran-i hergen baitalarakū.

With regard to the translation of essays, lines may be long or short, and one doesn't make use of rhymes and verses.

ubaliyambure de manggašarakū oci tetendere, fuhašahai gūninjara be baibure aibi.

In the case that there are difficulties with translation, one can just think it over carefully, can't one?

terei irgebun uculen-i jergi duin hacin oci, hergen-i ton-i memerebumbime, geli urangga-i wajima-i kemnebumbi.

[But] these four types of things, verse, poetry, songs and lyrics, one must be stubborn about the number of syllables, and parsimonious with the ends of verses.

ere yargiyan-i mangga ningge kai.

This is what is really difficult.
jaide oci banjibure niyalma, gūnin be gisun ci tulgiyen baktambuci tetendere, ubaliyambure niyalma, gisun-i dorgide mujilen dursukileme muterakū.

And then, while the original author can put up with the meaning that is outside of the words, the translator cannot tamper with the ideas that are within them.

urunakū fudarame forgošofi mudan acanara, kemuni jurcenjeme hiyaganjame gisun banjinabure ohode, faksikan-i gūnin teni bultahūn-i ofi, banjibure niyalmai gūnin be buruburakū ojoro be dahame, ere ele murin tarin-i acanaci mangga ningge.

It is all the more difficult to accommodate awkward cases, such as when the rhyme has been turned upside down and inside out, when contradictory and disorderly language has been used, or when the original author's intent has been obscured because only his witty ideas have come to the fore.

aikabade manju gisun-i kooli kemun waka seme wakašaci, toktofi amba deribun ci jurcehe da ci aliha.

If one disparages the Manchu language, saying it has neither rule nor measure, then certainly one undertakes the great beginning from a contradictory foundation.

ganio be algimbuha yobo be ilibuhangge be, ulebuci ojorakū seme hendumbidere.

I would say that it should not project strangeness and provoke humor.

tuttu seme tere duin hacin oci, sunjata nadata hergen bicibe, minggan tumen gūnin baktakabi.

In which case, as for those four types of things, if they are five or seven syllables each, then they can encompass ten million ideas.

aika fe durun-i songkoi memereme ubaliyambuci, terei muru urunakū ubaliyambume tucibuhengge moco laju, hergen gisun sijihūn memereku ofi, oilorgingge gaifi yargiyangga be waliyahabi seme basuburakū oci, toktofi gisun nemebufi gūnin be dalibuhabi seme deribumbime, irgebure jorin ci ambula calabure de isinambi.

If one translates slavishly according to the old forms, then what one produces from translating their shapes will certainly be awkward and clumsy. Because the syllables and words will be stiff and inflexible, if people don't mock you for grasping the surface meaning and missing the deeper truth, then they will certainly start to say you have increased the words and obscured the meaning, and you will have greatly departed from the aims of poetry.

tuttu urunakū hergen-i oilo be dulemšeme dorgideri fuhašame, gisun-i giyangna be waliyafi bakcilame ubaliyambume memere waka hokotai waka.

Thus to take no care for the surface meaning of the words and be fastidious about the inner meanings, to discard the commentary and translate in opposition to it, is neither slavish nor divergent.

fetereku akū gakarashūn akū ome, fulu nonggire ba akū bime, lak sere ferguwecuke eṇ jeṇ-i, banjibure niyalma-i anggai ici gisun-i mudan be, hoošan-i deleri iletusaka, hūlaci fatar sere de isibure ohode, amala teni ganio be algimbuhakū bime esi ganio ombi. yobo be ilibuhakū bime esi yobo ombime, deribun da ci umai jurcehekū nikai seme ferguwembikai sehebe arafi, sio feng siyan šeng de alibufi tuwabuhade, siyan šeng fuhali uru sehe turgunde, erebe šutucin araha.

Being neither overly critical nor overly detached, without any case of excess, with marvelous and exact completeness, you take the correct rhythm of the original authors' words and make it clear on paper. When one reads it, if one does so diligently, then what is strange about it is that it does not project strangeness, and what is amusing is that it does not become a joke. One wonders at the fact that it has not deviated from its fundamental origin." I wrote this down, and when I presented it to Mr. Xiufeng, the gentleman said it seemed to be correct, so I made it into this preface.

julge te-i gebungge saisai uculen ucun be sonjofi ubaliyambuha bithe.

A book of translations of selected poetry and songs of famous intellectuals from ancient times to the present.

gulu fulgiyan-i manju gūsai ubaliyambure dosikasi jakdan ubaliyambuha.

Translated by Jakdan, metropolitan graduate translator, of the plain red Manchu banner.

gulu fulgiyan-i manju gūsai ubaliyambure tukiyesi hainioi acabuha.

Collated by Haiyu (海玉), provincial graduate translator, of the plain red Manchu banner.

Poetic departures

Manchu grammar is usually fairly structured and predictable. In poetry, many departures from the usual rules appear to be permissible.

In my last post I translated an anonymous Lament on the State of the Times, and here I want to look at two of the cases of poetic usage I had to deal with.

Missing genitive marker

It is not normally permissible to drop the genitive marker in Manchu, except under specific circumstances. In Old Manchu, for example, it was permissible to drop the genitive marker -i after words ending in -i, but not in other cases.

In the Lament, there are at least three clear cases where the genitive appears to have been dropped after a word ending in -n, and some other cases that could be read that way. This was probably metrically motivated, since the genitive marker would have added an extra syllable after a word ending in -n.

The clearest cases are the following phrases:

taifin fon, "season of peace", for taifin-i fon
irgen ergen, "the spirit of the people", for irgen-i ergen
irgen banin, "the state of the people", for irgen-i banin

Wistful ya

The word ya can be found in ordinary literary Manchu, where it has the meaning of “which? what?”. However, this reading is often awkward in poetry, where the word ya occurs much more frequently.

The Lament uses it twice, and based on this usage I am inclined to understand it as a wistful or despondent exclamation.

1) dasarangge weke ya

Norman defines weke as “hey you! (word used for calling people whose name is unknown or forgotten)”. Presumably this is somehow related to the word we, “who?”. I suppose we could read dasarangge weke as “Hey you, repairer!” But then what do we do with the ya?

The line occurs in a context describing how the country is in disorder, and the feeling of the poem suggests that the speaker longs for a repairer who is not there. A despondent exclamation would fit the feeling of this line.

2) mergen jiyanggiyūn ya waci

The heart of this phrase is mergen jiyanggiyūn waci, “if the heroes and generals kill’, but normally that expression cannot stand on its own in Manchu because the conditional -ci is a converb, not a finite form.

I think the poet is using ellipsis here, and leaving the remainder of the phrase unspoken. “If the heroes and generals would kill [them, then we wouldn't have so much trouble].” We do the same thing in English when we say “If only the heroes and generals would kill them!” I think the ya in this phrase serves a similar adverbial function to the “only” in the English phrase, expressing a wish that the proposition of the sentence were true.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A lament on the state of the times

This is an anonymous poem included in Staatsbibliothek 34981 Fascicle 4. The title, Doo cing cy ninggun meyen (道情詞), seems like it might be an allusion to another work, but the only other Dao qing ci that I have found is a reference in chapter 44 of 西遊記:
Hand striking the bamboo fish, mouth singing the Dao qing ci, he entered the city gates and met the two Daoist priests. 
From context, it looks like the original may have been a Daoist hymn, but the Manchu poem is clearly a different creation, being a mournful lament on the affairs of the day (erin-i baita de nasarangge).

The poem consists of six stanzas of three quatrains each. The metrical scheme of each stanza is 3/3/3/3 7/7/7/7 3/4/3/4, and the rhyme scheme is AAxA AxAA xxxA. The only inconsistency in this scheme is that the last line of the fifth stanza (ai mohon) should be the first line of the sixth stanza in terms of meter, but belongs with the fifth stanza in terms of rhyme.

agu tuwa,Look, brother
ainara,what should we do?
faijuma,This is serious.

jobocuka ambula,Very worrisome,
gurun forgon icakū,the nation and the times are tense,
niyalmai gūnin gūwaliyaka,the people's minds have changed.
dasarangge weke ya?Who can fix it?

ai teišun,Whatever bronze
jiha eden,and cash is gone.
on kafi,When you go on an errand
bele aba?where is the rice?

agu suwe,Brothers, you
jai bodo,reckon again.
facuhūn,Where does
ai dube,the trouble end?

jalan baita ehe,Worldly affairs are wicked,
menggun seci ekiyehun,and the silver? Gone.
caliyan dembei oyonggo,Provisions are important!
aini cooha ujire,How can we maintain the army?

gurun ejen,are the rulers and nations.
hūlha holo,the robbers and thieves.

agu si,Brother, you
taifin fon,When has there been
atanggi,a season of peace?

yala yala akambi,So we grieve on.
irgen ergen gukuhei,The vitality of the people is extinguished,
hūlhai songko jalupi,the tracks of the bandits proliferate.
mergen jiyangjiyūn ya waci,If only the heroes and generals would kill them.

oyonggoWe value
menggun jiha,silver and cash,
weihuken,and count for little
ejen kesi.the grace of our rulers.

ai agu,Oh, brother,
ambasa officials
baitakū,are useless.

yasa tuwahai hūi uttu,Look now with your eyes,
gurun baitalan eden,the government is empty of useful people,
booi baitalan fulu,households are full of useful people,
tucibure jai akū,no one is appointed anymore.

gūnin tondo,correct thinking
bireteiis exclusively
beyei cisu.for personal benefit.

g'alab ton,The reckoning of ages
esi giyan,of course is proper,
ergenggeand living things
jilakan,are pitiful.

gūnihakū jobolon,Mindless suffering.
cooha ai uttu niyere,Why is the army weak like this?
bata ai tuttu kiyangkiyan,Why are the enemies powerful like that?
jiyangiyūn data ai bodon?What plan do the generals and leaders have?

bi jeke,I have eaten.
caliyan fulun bi waliya,Let me abandon provisions and salary.
golo hoton,The district and town,
ai mohon.such depletion.

ai jempiHow can one bear
mujilenthese thoughts?

wei ondoho facuhūn,Foolishness brings disaster,
irgen banin kokima,the state of the people is poor,
gurun ulin ekiyehun,the coffers of the state are empty,
yala jobocuka suffering is extreme.

ban akū,Without troops
coohai jiyangiyūn,are the army generals,
sui akū,without guilt
niyalmai ergen.the people's spirits.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Jakdan's Wordplay

I've been thinking about how Jakdan translated 自去自來 in Du Fu's poem. He could have translated it literally, cihai genere cihai jiderengge, but instead he wrote cihai deyenere cihai donjirengge.

What has he done here, and why?

Most obviously, Jakdan has told us that the swallows are flying (deyene-). Du Fu, in his elegant concision, did not say that they were flying. But then he didn't need to, because everyone knows that swallows fly. Indeed, the constraints of regulated verse may have made it difficult or impossible Du Fu to say "freely flying to and fro" (*自飛去來).

Jakdan, however, was not working under the same constraints as Du Fu. He imposed on himself the restriction that each line of his translation should have seven Manchu words, but was able to make use of the fact that Manchu can combine the meaning of "flying" (deye-) and "going" (-ne-) into a single word to embellish the translation without breaking the poetic form.

Perhaps more interesting, though less obvious, is what at first appears to be a transcription error in the word donjirengge. Just as Manchu can inject the meaning of "going" using the derivational suffix -ne-, it can likewise inject the meaning of "coming" using -nji-. If Jakdan meant to parallel Du Fu's 自去自來, we would expect cihai deyenere cihai deyenjirengge. However, instead of "come flying" (deyenji-), Jakdan gave us "listen, hear" (donji-).

The simplest explanation here is that Jakdan (or a copyist) made a mistake, and this is really meant to be deyenjirengge. However, I am entertaining the idea that Jakdan intended to embellish his translation again by telling us that people can hear the swallows, and he was poetically licensed to do this by the similarity between the words deyenji- and donji-.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A poem by Du fu

In Jakdan's fifth fascicle, he has a translation of a poem by Du Fu, for which he gives the title as Qingjiang (清江). Since Stephen Owen has recently made a complete translation of all of Du fu's poetry freely available, I thought it would be interesting to compare Jakdan and Owen's translations. The same poem is found in Owen, vol. 2, book 9, poem 9.30 (under the title 江村). I won't include Owen's text here since it doesn't belong to me, but it is easy to find.

First, there are a few textual differences between the Chinese text in Jakdan and that in Owen. Here are the two poems, side-by-side:

Owen 9.30Jakdan 5.7



For his translation, Jakdan has chosen an en rhyme, which means the rhyming lines must end in -en, -in, -un, -ūn. He has also followed the same AAxA-xAxA rhyme scheme as Du Fu, though in the third line he has an accidental rhyme (cibin) that was probably unavoidable. Lastly, he has translated each line as seven Manchu words, reflecting the seven characters per line of the original.

Here is Jakdan's Manchu translation:

cing giyang ula

cing giyang-ni emu mudanggai tokso erguwere eyen,(Rhyme)
ula toksoi sidaraka juwari-i baita anan-i elehun,(Rhyme)
cihai deyenere cihai donjirengge daibu-i dergi cibin,(Accidental rhyme)
sasa halanjire sasa halanarangge musei dorgi kilahūn,(Rhyme)
sakda sargan hoošan jijurengge tonio tonikū-i muru,
ajige juse ulme dabtarangge welmiyere dehe-i efin,(Rhyme)
nimeku hūsibuhai baiburengge damu okto hacin dabala,
ser sere beyeci tulgiyen geli ai erecun.(Rhyme)

I think the en rhyme must have been a particularly challenging rhyme for Manchu poets because no Manchu finite verb forms end in -n. This forces every rhyming line to end in a noun or adjective, limiting the poet to an extremely narrow set of possible phrase types.

It also poses a challenge for the translator from Manchu, as you might see below in my very literal translation from Jakdan:

The Qingjiang River

A winding bend of the Qingjiang river, which flows around a village,

The events that unfold at the river and village each summer are continuously peaceful,
Those which come and go freely flying are the swallows above the oars,
Those which come and go trading places with us are our own gulls,
What the old lady draws on the paper is the shape of a chess board,
The children hammering on needles, a game of fishhooks,
Other than the kind of medicine that is sought by those who are sick,
Aside from this slight body, what could one expect?

Owen's translation and Jakdan's are generally fairly close, aside from the re-phrasing that Jakdan had to undertake to use the en rhyme. Obviously textual differences lead to differences in translation, so Owen's swallows are "in the hall" but Jakdan's are "over the oars", and the seventh line is completely different.

There are a few interesting oddities about Jakdan's text that bear mentioning, and I'm not sure what they say about Jakdan's process of translation.

1. Clearly, from the Chinese text, the swallows should come and go flying. In Manchu they certainly go flying (deyenere), but instead of coming flying they "listen" (donjire). Is this donjire just a mistake for *deyenjire, "come flying"? Or is this an intentional play on words on Jakdan's part, to inject a new meaning into the translation that was not present in the original?

2. From the Chinese text, the swallows are above the oars (桨), but the word used in the Manchu text is one I have not been able to identify: daibu. I am not sure what the origin of this word is, so I am not entirely sure about the meaning.

3. In the Chinese text, the children of the village very clearly tap on needles to make fishhooks. In Jakdan's Manchu, this is a game (efin), but the word efin sounds a bit like a synonym for needle, ifin.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Jakdan Remembers his Nephews

Jakdan wrote this note at the beginning of the first fascicle of Jabduha ucuri amtanggai baita. It gives you some insight into what it took to publish a Manchu book in early 19th century China.


kemuni gūnici, abkai fejergi-i baita, dembei mangga bime dule ja ningge bi seci, ja waka bime mangga akū ningge inu bi.Often, when I think that things in this world must reach the extremity of hardship before they become easy, they turn out not to be easy but not really so difficult either.

adarame seci, dembei manggangge tacin-i hūsun inu, ja wakangge, ulin-i hūsun inu juwe hacin gemu mangga bime, emu erinde yongkiyabuki seci, udu nokai ja ningge waka secibe, inu tere niyalma-i nashūn ucaran-i antaka be tuwara dabala.

For example, something that is exceedingly difficult is academic effort, and something that is not easy is having financial resources. But while each of these is difficult, and it is not at all easy to achieve them both simultaneously, consider the opportunity that it presents to a person.

mini beye tušan ci nakaha amala, jabšande KUN YA siyan šeng be ucarabufi, gūnin mujin uhei acabume, tuweri juwari seme giyalabun akū, lii lii ung ni julgei šu fiyelen be pileme oyonggo babe tucibuhe geren bithe be, ubaliyambufi acabume šanggafi, emgeri faksi de folobuha be tuwaci, maka dembei mangga bime dule ja ningge waka semeo?

After I myself retired, by good fortune I met Mr. Kun Ya (崑崖), and finding ourselves to be of like minds we worked winter and summer without a break, translating and compiling the texts identified as important classical works by Li Li Weng (李笠翁). We completed that, and once I saw [the printing blocks] carved by the craftsmen, I wondered, is this something that is extremely difficult but easy in the end?
te geli irgebun ucun juru gisun be, acabufi sarkiyame wajihabi.

Now again we have completed this draft compilation of poems, songs and couplets.
jing untuhun folome šuwaselara hūsun akū-i jalin jobošome(?) bisirede, mini banjiha jalahi jui sunglin ho ting, sungh'eo, yūn kiyoo, meimeni emte tanggū yan menggun be alibume jafafi, bithe foloro fayabun obuha be tuwaci, ere geli ja waka bime mangga akū ningge nikai!

Just as I was worrying about the fact that we lacked the resources to carve it for printing, my nephews Songlin He Ting (松林鶴汀), Songhe (松鶴) and Yun Qiao (雲翹) each put up a hundred taels of silver, and when the expenses for carving had been met, this again was not easy and yet without difficulty!
juwe manggangge emu erinde yongkiyaha be dahame, terei nashūn ucaran-i jabšan ohongge, yala antaka ni!

Since the two difficult things were accomplished simultaneously, the situation turned into a fortunate opportunity. How about that!
banjiha haji niyalma-i turgunde, ceni hoo hio sere yabun be burubuha be jenderakū ofi, tuttu iletuleme tucibufi ejehebi.I cannot bear to let the magnanimous actions of my dear relatives disappear without a trace, so in this way I have publicly commemorated them.