I am not a poet. But in my Craft of Translation class, we mostly translate poetry. This is extremely difficult for me, but I kinda love challenges, so I’m sticking to it. Today I translated a poem and for the first time I don’t hate what I came up with! I thought I’d share it with everyone…
Okay, so I translated a Chinese poem called “Villa At The Foot Of Mount Chungnan” by Wang Wei, and I have no idea if my version is remotely accurate, in fact I’m pretty sure it isn’t… But I like it, so there.
To Never Return
Hearing Buddha, I searched for love in the middle
But now in my south hill home the years are late
Impulses come and come, but die quickly
Nature tries to surprise me, but no success
I walk to the spot where water ends
Clouds rise and pass like time. I sit.
There are times I see passed friends in the woods
I wish to talk, laugh, and never return
Do you write end of poem like you do at the end of a play? Somehow I don’t think so… Anyway, that’s it! If you’re wondering what I translated it from (because you know I don’t speak or read Chinese), we have this helpful text book that has literal translations of poems. Here is the literal, word-for-word translation:
Villa At The Foot Of Mount Chungnan
middle year/s quite love Buddhist-Way
late-years make-home South Hill side
impulse come often alone go
fine (i.e., natural scenes) turn-of-things in-vain self know
walk to water end (or source) place
sit see cloud/s rise time
occasionally meet woods old-man
talk laugh no return time
What I really dig about this class is that the teacher (Paul Hoover), is fine with you being wrong in your translation, as long as you feel strongly about your finished piece.
Anyway, what do you think?