ouyang xiu: third in a series

Comments yesterday were satisfactory. Keep it up.

Today’s poem is the third in a series of 10 lyrics by Ouyang Xiu to the tune of “The Mulberry-Picking Boy.” It turns out that rhyming in English is harder than I thought, but here goes:

欧阳修: 采桑子 (3)



Ouyang Xiu: “To the tune of ‘The Mulberry-Picking Boy'”


A painted boat carrying a load of wine: the beautiful West Lake.
And to the music’s quickening sound,
A jade wine-thimble passes round.
The calm and level waters ease a drunken sleep.

Somehow the moving clouds appear beneath the moving boat.
Sky and water, fresh and clean;
Up and down and flowing on,
As if in the lake’s waters there were another sky.

Comments (10)

  1. chriswaugh_bj wrote::

    Well done.

    Friday, December 3, 2004 at 10:05 pm #
  2. Matt wrote::

    I like the rhymed (and almost-rhymed) lines, but the long ones feel kind of floppy. Like, what if the first line were shortened a little to: “A painted boat with a load of wine: the beautiful West Lake”? Then you’d have a 4+3 stress thing (followed by two lines of 4 each) that matches the number of characters per line in the original, even.

    Saturday, December 4, 2004 at 2:13 am #
  3. Adam wrote::

    Brendan, there’s no fame in Classical Chinese Translation. If you’re trying to elicit a response you’d be much better off showing pictures of yourself doused with tumeric, or locked in people’s bathrooms. If people don’t respond it’s not because we don’t appreciate or value the effort and skill that goes into these pages, we just assume you derive that you derive enjoyment and satisfaction form the translation itself. Is this not the point of you posting?

    Saturday, December 4, 2004 at 3:03 am #
  4. Brendan wrote::

    Matt – I like it! Once I finish this poem-cycle I’ll go back and revise my earlier translations; is it OK if I make the change as per your suggestion and credit you?

    Adam – Yeah, but it’s nice to get some feedback every now and then. I think you’re right, though; doing poetry may not actually be any better than doing nothing at all. It’s time to come up with a Plan C.

    Saturday, December 4, 2004 at 5:20 am #
  5. Adam wrote::

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t do poetry, or that it’s better or worse than anything. You’re very good at it; I can’t imagine it being a task that you find especially taxing, it probably keeps you from doing other shit you’d rather not be doing, and it is an excellent way to simultaneously showcase and reinforce your knowledge. Most importantly, if you enjoy it, and I’m fairly certain that you do, just do it.

    Face it, not everyone has something to say about OuYang Xiu’s seventy fifth Ci composed to the tune of “donkey fucker”. This is simply a fact of the world we live in.

    If plan C involves camels, Manchuria, or the Irish, count me out.

    Saturday, December 4, 2004 at 8:15 am #
  6. Cap wrote::


    Sunday, December 5, 2004 at 1:08 am #
  7. JFS wrote::

    I think Adam is right. I have received a lot of pleasure from your posts, but do not believe that I have much to offer and so say little. But your posts are very much appreciated. One comment, though. I would shortened the first line a wee bit more to “a wine loaded painted boat, the beautiful West Lake”. You could even replace “loaded” with the more quaint term “laden”; more apt, but perhaps not commonly used today.

    Sunday, December 5, 2004 at 9:17 pm #
  8. Todd wrote::

    “Rhyming in English is harder than I thought”, oh too true, and so damn easy in Chinese! Hence, a very difficult task to translate *and* rhyme.

    With the suggested simplification of the first line, overall a good translation I think. I don’t like the “and” on L2 though, however I can’t exactly explain why. Also, “up and down and flowing on” doesn’t make much sense to me, and surely the original line means that both when you look down (俯) and look up (仰) you can see the clouds moving? Maybe something like “Under and over, flowing on”.

    Monday, December 6, 2004 at 12:19 pm #
  9. dan wrote::

    Just want to say, I think your site is VERY INTERESTING and as a Mandarin speaker/student it gives me insights into the language I don’t get from reading newspapers. Not really sure what the hell Adam etc are getting at. I really hope you keep it up.

    Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 7:54 pm #
  10. Nic wrote::

    this is a tough one! 行云却在行舟下 hints that the surface is like a mirror that reflecting the sky, so the poet writes “湖中别有天”.
    but in chinese, “别有洞天”means…well it means…i think you guys all know what it means. anyway the 双关意味 is too difficult to translate properly.

    Monday, October 8, 2007 at 11:42 am #