Du Mu's Poems

Since then, I have developed a keener interest in his poems. As much as I like the light-hearted, romanticist and gallant style of his poetry, he has not surpassed, although he has almost equaled, Su Shi (蘇軾), on my list of top favorites. I must confess, though, that I am still just a dabbler, if not neophyte, in Chinese poetry appreciation.

Inspired by a blogger over at HKEJ’s discussion forum, Wong Wang Fat (黃宏發), former Legislator Council president, who has been posting his English translations of Chinese poetry on the forum and who has recently posted a rendition of Du Mu’s “Given in Parting II” (“贈別: 其二”), I’ve come up with my own rendition of this sentimental, guilt-ridden poem, which was written when the poet had to bid farewell to one of his lovers. In fact, another of his poems that has similar tone and feelings is “Conveying Sentiments” (“遣懷”). I’ve only read part of Du Mu’s collection of poems, and the one I like best is “Autumn Eve” (“秋夕”), of which I’ve also done a rendition below.

Original of “Given in Parting II” (“贈別: 其二”) :-

多情卻是總無情,

唯覺樽前笑不成。

蠟燭有心還惜別,

替人垂淚到天明。

My Rendition:-

My heart enslaved, yet heartless I appear.

Chalice emptied, but cheer eludes me, I fear.

Kinder is the candle that grieves,

For our parting it weeps, till morning is near.

Wong’s Rendition (1):-

Fond are my feelings yet unfeeling I feign;

A wine cup in hand, I merry make in vain.

Heartful, the candle, our parting it grieves,

In tears it melts, till it’s daylight again.

Wong’s Rendition (2):-

Fond are my feelings, unfeeling I appear;

Before the wine-flask/cups, no laughter, I fear.

Heartful is the candle, our parting, it grieves,

And in tears it melts, till morning is here.

Original of “Autumn Eve” (“秋夕”):-

銀燭秋光冷畫屏,

輕羅小扇撲流螢。

天階夜色涼如水,

臥看牽牛織女星。

My Rendition:-

White candle light dances on the painted screen,

Flimsily dressed, fan in hand, onto fireflies she careens.

Cold stone steps, under a dark chilly sky,

Lying down, she watches the pairing stars, all but serene.

[Note: A lonely maiden-in-waiting in the imperial court inspired the poet to write this poem on a chilly autumn night.]