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.

No comments:

Post a Comment