Hearing a Flute on a Spring Night in Luoyang
(translated by William P. Coleman)
In some house there’s a jade flute — sound flies into the dark.
Spring winds disperse it as they arrive, filling Luoyang City
The night holds a tune — I can hear “Break a Willow Twig.”
Who wouldn’t be moved, remembering the garden at home?
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.
Also p. 239 of Yip, Wai-Lim. Chinese Poetry. Durham: Duke University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8223-1946-2.
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.