Skip to content

Hú Shì: Don't You Forget

Have been thinking about poetry lately. Am working on translating Rilke’s Herbsttag (Autumn Day / 秋日), one of my favorite poems, into Chinese — there are two existing translations by Feng Zhi and Bei Dao, but I don’t like either of them. In the meantime, I happened across this remarkable 胡适 poem (in, I’ll admit, the Wikipedia entry on him — I was killing time), and it made for a quick translation into English, so here I go:

Don’t You Forget

My boy
Twenty years I’ve taught you to love your country,
But what’s to love about it!

Don’t you forget:
It was the soldiers of our country
That drove your third aunt to kill herself,
Drove Ah-Xin to do the same,
Drove your wife to her death,
Shot Gao Sheng dead!

Don’t you forget:
Who it was cut your finger off,
Who it was beat your old man to a pulp like this!
Who it was burned this village —
— The fire’ll reach here any minute;
Run! Don’t die with me!
— Come back!

Don’t you forget:
How as your old man lay dying he wanted only for the country to fall,
Fall to the Cossacks,
Fall to the Prussians,
Anything
Nothing could be as bad as — this!

你莫忘记

我的儿
我二十年教你爱国,
这国如何爱得!

你莫忘记:
这是我们国家的大兵,
逼死了你三姨,
逼死了阿馨,
逼死了你妻子,
枪毙了高升!

你莫忘记:
是谁砍掉了你的手指,
是谁把你的老子打成了这个样子!
是谁烧了这一村,
哎哟!火就要烧到这里了,
你跑罢!莫要同我一起死!
回来!

你莫忘记:
你老子临死时只指望快快亡国:
亡给『哥萨克』,
亡给『普鲁士』
都可以
人总该不至——如此!

Note:  逼死  can refer to driving someone to commit suicide or harrying someone to their death. I switched up the translations between “Ah-Xin” and “your wife” for no particularly good reason.

4 Comments

  1. RON once from Phill wrote:

    Thoought I would easily remember you philly Email. HAH

    Please send before you go if you have time.
    Don’t want to miss you

    Regards.

    That’s a tough poem, by the way

    Thursday, September 14, 2006 at 1:12 am | Permalink
  2. nausicaa wrote:

    Nice translation. Hu Shi’s writings on Chinese history and political philosophy (he was rather an anomaly – a liberal among the Marxist hordes) are well worth a look.

    Though an indifferent poet himself, he was a great admirer of Tao Yuanming (coincidentally also one of my favourite poets.)

    Thursday, September 14, 2006 at 4:45 pm | Permalink
  3. 宇文寒秋 wrote:

    中国所有的诗人大概都已经死了。。。。

    Monday, October 9, 2006 at 1:03 am | Permalink
  4. studentyoung wrote:

    Quote:
    That’s a tough poem, by the way.

    Maybe it is just because you don’t know the background of this poem. In those days, warlords had great effect on the area they controlled. And they usually tyrannized over the local people, as the words expressed in the poem.

    Quote:

    It was the soldiers of our country
    That drove your third aunt to kill herself,
    Drove Ah-Xin to do the same,
    Drove your wife to her death,
    Shot Gao Sheng dead!

    Who it was cut your finger off,
    Who it was beat your old man to a pulp like this!
    Who it was burned this village –
    – The fire’ll reach here any minute;

    Hu tried to express his indignation against brutal warlords by words from a dying old man to his son in the poem. “Nothing could be as bad as – this!” means nothing could be as bad as ruled by those brutal warlords.

    Thanks!

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006 at 11:37 am | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *
*
*