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archy and mehitabel and du fu


Written After Seeing an English Translation of 300 Tang Poems in the Philadelphia Public Library on June 26


what is with all these
translators who make
tang poetry read like e.e. cummings

don’t they know
classical forms never used


  1. Hao wrote:

    Are you sure you don’t want to get a PhD and be a big-shot China scholar somewhere covered with ivies? :)

    Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink
  2. dude.


    Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink
  3. alai wrote:

    ftw a+

    Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink
  4. jdmartinsen wrote:

    The results can be quite grim for the reverse, too.

    It could always be worse. Consider Li Yi’s immortal “Limerick of the Southern River”:

    My husband, a merchant of Kui,
    Puts off my needs day after day.
    If instead I’d relied
    On the regular tide,
    A surfer’s wife I’d be today.

    Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink
  5. @Hao: I understand that using profanity in one’s dissertation is frowned upon, so probably not, at least for now.

    @jdmartinsen: There was a great Metafilter thread a while ago where people took great poems and rewrote them as limericks. (Jim contributed a wonderful rendition of “Dulce et Decorum” that pretty much won the thread as far as I was concerned.) May be time to do that for Chinese poems too.

    A filial girl named Mulan
    Didn’t want Dad to fight for the Khan.
    So she got her a saddle
    And rode off to battle,
    The whole while disguised as a man.

    Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Permalink
  6. Magnus Nordenhake wrote:

    I thought
    in 刘禹锡’s 乌衣巷was the only exception?

    Friday, July 30, 2010 at 1:56 am | Permalink
  7. Jeff wrote:

    You made me look up a character there

    Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink
  8. Jim wrote:


    Which Chinese-English dictionary do you rely on when translating? I have several dead-tree dictionaries that are at least better than Wenlin et al. But I’m still not satisfied. Anyway, just wondering what you use. (If you say that real men only use Chinese-Chinese dictionaries or something along those lines, then I’ll harrumph at you loudly.)


    Monday, August 2, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink
  9. Cheng wrote:

    good lord. U know Chinese better than I do.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010 at 6:29 am | Permalink
  10. Brendan wrote:

    Hey Jim — it basically depends, but if I’m working, then I’m going for speed, which means that I’m using computer dictionaries wherever possible. nCiku is pretty good in a lot of contexts, as is Adso. Google Translate is getting better, but still has the nasty habit of occasionally giving very reasonable-sounding but utterly wrong translations. For neologisms, Baidu Zhidao is invaluable, as people have often asked (in Chinese) for explanations of new coinages.

    Also, real men use Chi- etc etc.

    Monday, August 16, 2010 at 12:39 am | Permalink
  11. Brendan wrote:

    @Magnus — Goddammit! Yes, you got me. I still stand by my point.

    Monday, August 16, 2010 at 12:40 am | Permalink
  12. Wentao wrote:

    I suppose some 流水对 in ancient poetry may be considered as a sort of “enjambment”. Such “run-on lines” would be more common if 对仗 is not necessary.

    Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Permalink