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.
More Chinese poetry translations in this blog.
Home page for my Li Bai translations.