Another Farewell (after Wang Wei)

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Another Farewell (after Wang Wei)

We pause at the hill to say goodbye
and I close the willow gate
as dusk falls.

The grass will turn green again
next spring, but will you,
my friend, see its return?

The transliteration on Chinese-poems.com reads:

Hill at mutual escort stop
Day dusk shut wood door
Spring grass next year green
Prince offspring return not return

I’ve taken a few liberties, chief among them employing “willow” rather than wood, for its specificity and for its cultural significance (broken willow symbolizing departure). A little knowledge is dangerous…but I believe it works here.

kalnik 037

40 thoughts on “Another Farewell (after Wang Wei)

  1. The theme of parting in Chinese poetry is ineffably sad and powerful. You give it its true voice in sparse and evocative language which surely gives the sense and emotional context of the original. How proud and honored I am to call you my friend.

    Ron

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  2. I like the choice of “willow” over “wood”, to reinforce the difficulty and possible finality of this parting. The character Wang Wei chose for “door” is one that carries the ideogram “fei”, signifying opposition; it makes you imagine this gate as resisting the friend’s departure as much as the poet does… Hard to convey this in English so I think the willow substitution, being so quickly recognized, was great poetic license. ^_^

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  3. It is this delicate simplicity in which poetry often resides.
    I love how this poem catches in one blink of an eye the friend leaving, the sorrow, the gate shutting as yet another detail which only enhances sadness, and a glimpse of hope flickering in an uncertain future. This is what I see in it.

    You can probably tell I am not a connoisseur of Chinese poetry, but your blog gives me the opportunity to read it and appreciate it.

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  4. “Willow” works; very nicely done. I love the photo below, how the road, on its way to its vanishing point, neatly slices the world in half. (But what’s up with the bamboo gate in the photo above!?)

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  5. Question for you: my friend is planning to get a chinese poetry tattoo and I feel he is about to make a big mistake… But if he can’t be talked out of it maybe I can make a good recommendation? Could you suggest something for someone who wants a tattoo to “remember China” by?

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