Jade stairs complaint
(translated by William P. Coleman)
The jade stairs give birth to clear dew;
in the late night it permeates gauze stockings.
Yet she lowers the crystal curtain;
jewel pendants tinkle, and she looks to the autumn moon.
. 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 — and very helpful notes — on pp. 105-6 of Whincup, Greg. The Heart of Chinese Poetry. Garden City: Anchor Press, Doubleday, 1987. ISBN 0-385-23967-X.
Also at Chinese Poems.
There are also translation materials for this poem at the website Tang Shi — 300 Tang Poems, from Wengu — Chinese Classics and Poems.
And on p. 278 of Wai-Lim Yip’s book Chinese Poetry: an Anthology of Major Modes and Genres, 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.