On a summer day at the South Pavilion thinking of Xin
(translated by William P. Coleman)
The light from the west falls, all at once, behind the mountain;
the moon reflects on the pond to the east.
My hair loosened, I enjoy the coolness of evening;
In the open pavilion, I can lie at leisure, unenclosed.
In the breeze is a delicious scent of lotus;
the dew in the bamboo drips with a clear sound.
I should fetch my qín, pluck it, and sing;
but it distresses me there’s no one to hear its beauty.
I feel these things — and remember my friend;
during the night I’ll be troubled by dreams, I think.
I found the Chinese text and an English translation of this poem — along with the word-by-word literal translation I used to create this one — at Chinese Poems.
I found the Chinese text and an English translation of this poem — along with the word-by-word literal translation I used to create this one at the website Tang Shi — 300 Tang Poems, from Wengu — Chinese Classics and Poems.
The grammar of Chinese allows poets to leave interpretive choices open, and it’s an unattainable ideal of translating to bring out possibilities without closing others. I try to use my sense of English to at least intrigue you. If I’ve succeeded, it’s best — even if you don’t know Chinese, which I don’t either — to follow up at the source I cite above and see the original word-by-word translation from which I worked. It’ll be richer than what I’ve given you. To understand the poem best, try to construct your own translation.
More Chinese poetry translations in this blog.
Home page for my Meng Haoran translations.