Memories, when winter cold first comes to the river
(translated by William P. Coleman)
Trees lose their leaves, and wild geese pass toward the south;
the north wind brings cold to the river.
My home is at the bend of the Xiang River;
it’s far — on the other side of the clouds of Chu.
I gave, exhausted, tears for my village, in travel across China;
now I watch a lone sail at the edge of the sky.
Having missed the ferry, I wish there was a way to ask;
on the flat sea, dusk spreads endlessly.
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.