On Parting (after Tu Mu)


On Parting (after Tu Mu)

This much fondness numbs me.
I ache behind my drink, and cannot smile.
The candle too, hates parting,
and drips tears for us at dawn.


A non-poet friend asked why I’m dabbling in these adaptations. After all, she said, they’ve already been translated. Why do you breathe, I replied, admittedly a dissatisfying, snarky and evasive answer. So I thought about it. Why, indeed. The usual justifications apply: as exercises in diction and rhythm, it’s fun, it’s challenging. But the truth is I love these poems, these poets, and working through the pieces allows me to inhabit the poems in a way I can’t by simply reading them. And there is a hope, however feeble, of adding to the conversation a slight nuance or a bit of texture without detracting from or eroding the original.


The transliteration on Chinese-poems.com reads:

Much feeling but seem all without feeling
Think feel glass before smile not develop
Candle have heart too reluctant to part
Instead person shed tear at dawn


This first appeared on the blog in October 2014.

23 thoughts on “On Parting (after Tu Mu)

  1. “A non-poet friend asked why I’m dabbling in these adaptations. After all, she said, they’ve already been translated….” Like Louis Armstrong said, If you have to ask, you will never know…

    These retranslations are fantastic. Keep up the very very VERY good work! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Chinese-poems.com version registers with me as stiff and too-literally-translated (emphasis on words only). Your renditions (including this) speak to me in a readily-understood manner. Isn’t that the goal of translation? In another few centuries, your renditions may no longer be readily-understood, and then some new poet will come along and say it better for that generation. For now, sooooo glad to encounter yours.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. 1. I wouldn’t call it dabbling.

    2. I don’t know why you do it, but your translations are gorgeous. You bring something to them and they bring something to you. The result is stunning.

    3. I don’t actually care why you do it, I only hope you’ll keep on.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Robert, another word that I’ve learnt about today, transliterate, and your works are fascinating and make for compelling reading. Again this old dog’s been taught another trick !!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Playing with words…you don’t need any justification for that. I do the same thing with art, making collages based on artists’ work I love. You experience the words/images/colors/forms in a much deeper way. And you learn. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.