(translated by William P. Coleman)
At the tree top, the hibiscus are in flower;
there on the mountain, they put forth red calyxes.
There’s a hut by the stream, silent, with no one —
richly, in profusion, they open and fall.
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 — on p. 228 of Wai-Lim Yip’s book Chinese Poetry: an Anthology of Major Modes and Genres, Duke University Press, 1997; ISBN 0-8223-1946-2.
I also consulted the English translations in:
Yu, Pauline. The Poetry of Wang Wei. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980. 0-253-17772-3, p. 204.
Barnstone, Tony and Chou Ping. The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry. Garden City: Anchor, 2005. ISBN 0-385-72198-6, p.107
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 Wang Wei translations.