A Poetic Reply


Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Poetic Reply

My Facebook friend sent me a poem of his other other day. I guess this is our way of grinding our minds as a pastime. I do not know long did it take him to compose but I am sure it must be in a short period as his Chinese is excellent. This was what he sent. I have included the translation and annotated some of the not so apparent references as footnotes for your understanding and enjoyment.

蘭花氣質比天仙, Orchid fragrance better than those of a fairy,
天生註定世人賞. Only destined to be enjoyed by others.
幾度花落紅庭院, How often have the flowers fallen,
花謝花飛飛滿庭. All over the red1 courtyard, withering and in flight.
春風艷色未挽留, But alas, no spring wind can bring them back2.
色消香斷奈何天. Alas, colors faded, fragrance stopped.
往日風流朱顏改, Merriment in days of yore; no longer rosy are these cheeks of mine,
紅樓玉壁依然在. But cinnabar buildings with walls of jade still remain.
低聲嘆氣我自憐, In whispers and sighs, I pity myself.
自古紅顏多薄命. From time immemorial, such are the pitiful lives of beauties.

For days, I cracked my mind for a suitable reply. I have to have a similar theme and yet something different. To cut my story short, the following poem was the result of an image formed during my jog up the hill. Two once upon a time lovers met again after many years. It describes the scene of this chance meeting. I never like my women characters to be weak and fragile.

一滴珠淚千古恨, One tear drop, a thousand regrets.
秋波隱忍萬世愁. Hidden in the eyes, a myriad sorrows.
揮扇遮隔身外塵, Waving my fan, I seek refuge and distance myself from the outer dust3,
釵搖回首不望後. Swishing of my hairpin4, I turned and looked not back.

Anyway I came up with a second version. I did not know which is better. Most grateful for any pointer or comment. Thanks all.

一滴珠淚一滴恨, One tear drop, one drop of regret,
是否淚盡恨不留. Tears gone, no regret left?
揮扇遮隔眼前塵, Waving my fan, I seek refuge and distance myself from this dust before me.
釵搖回首不多聞. Swishing my hairpin, I turned and listened no more.

1. In the original poem, there are mention of “red buildings/mansions/towers” and red courtyards. These are residence of the nobility. By imperial law of those times, no common people are allowed to have red colored walls. Special dispensation must be granted by the emperor. Yellow is reserved for imperial use and therefore no nobility can use that color either. The rich may adorned their homes with other colors.

2. Actually the translation should be, “No spring wind can retain their fading beauty.” I find this is too explicit in English. In this way, it makes readers have a more vivid imagination.

3. The red dust means the vulgar world with all its gory comings and goings.

4. Ancient Chinese women adorned their hair with elaborate hairpins unlike those of today. The more elaborate ones are like tassels and can hang to their shoulders. These metallic accoutrements can be used as a weapon either to stab the attacker or to use as means of committing suicide. These tassels are also known as 步搖 literally, “step swayers”. I prefer to translate them as “step danglers”. Here’s a photo for easier reference.

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