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Susan Ye Laird, poetry magazine, poetry translations
     with S. Ye Laird

In this April issue, we feature four English sonnets transformed into classical Chinese verses by 柏舟.  Can such wordsmith's fine work be called 'translation' ?  For better and worse,  what our translator was doing is not at all imitation but something else entirely and at its very best, with transformative and interpretive power at his disposal? (source:

To the Moon


Charlotte Taylor Smith (1749-1806)

Queen of the silver bow! – by thy pale beam

Alone and pensive, I delight to stray,

And watch thy shadow trembling in the stream,

Or mark the floating clouds that cross thy way.

And while I gaze, thy mild and placid light

Sheds a soft calm upon my troubled breast;

And oft I think – fair planet of the night –

That in thy orb, the wretched may have rest:

The sufferers of the earth perhaps may go,

Released by Death – to thy benignant sphere,

And the sad children of Despair and Woe

Forget, in thee, their cup of sorrow here.

    Oh! that I soon may reach thy world serene,

    Poor wearied pilgrim – in this toiling scene!

It was in 1784, in debtor's prison with her husband Benjamin, that she wrote and published her first work, Elegiac Sonnets. " She left her husband in 1789, and went on to help establishing the conventions of Gothic fiction. She also wrote many political novels of sensibility, all the while supporting her eight (or ten?) children.



translator 柏舟 on










① 夏洛特·史密斯(1749-1806)出生于一个殷实的家庭,16岁时嫁给了一位商人的儿子。丈夫的奢侈造成家境拮据,债台高筑。丈夫进入债务监狱后,夏洛特与其同守铁窗,陪伴他度过近半年的监禁生活。为了养育10个孩子,夏洛特不断写作,出版了小说、翻译、儿童读物、书信和诗歌共20种。利·亨特认为她的诗歌“自然而动人”,沃尔特·司各特撰文赞誉她的小说《爱默琳》和《古老的庄园》。她最“著名的诗集是《悼祭十四行诗》。她对自然的崇拜和自我分析的思维倾向都使她成为19世纪浪漫派诗人的先驱。

Sonnets from the Portuguese

Elizabeth B. Browning

I thought once how Theocritus had sung

Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,

Who each one in a gracious hand appears

To bear a gift for mortals, old or young:

And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,

I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,

The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years.

Those of my own life, who by turns had flung

A shadow across me. Straightway I was ’ware,

So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move

Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;

And a voice said in mastery, while I strove, –

   “Guess now who holds thee?” – “Death,” I said. But, there

    The silver answer rang, – “Not Death, but love.”



translator 柏舟 on

遥想当年,越人歌咏,① 良辰岁岁相期。










① 越人歌:关于《越人歌》,有两种说法:(1)《越人歌》相传是中国第一首译诗。鄂君子皙泛舟河中,打桨的越女爱慕他,用越语唱了一首歌,鄂君请人用楚语译出,就是这一首美丽的情诗。有人说鄂君在听懂了这首歌,明白了越女的心之后,就微笑着把她带回去了。(席慕蓉诗《在黑暗的河流上》)(2)这是一首中国古代使用壮侗语族语言民族的古老民歌。公元前528年,楚国令尹鄂君子皙举行舟游盛会,百官缙绅,冠盖如云。在盛会上,越人歌手对鄂君拥楫而歌。一位懂得楚语的越人给子皙翻译道:“今夕何夕兮?搴洲中流,今日何日兮?得与王子同舟。蒙羞被好兮,不訾诟耻。心几烦而不绝兮,得知王子。山有木兮木有枝,心悦君兮君不知。”子皙被这真诚的歌声所感动,按照楚人的礼节,双手扶了扶越人的双肩,又庄重地把一幅绣满美丽花纹的绸缎被面披在他身上。


② 弥弥:(1)连续。汉应劭《风俗通·怪神·城阳景王祠》:“其有犯者,便收朝廷。若私遗脱,弥弥不絶,主者髠截,嘆无反已。”(2)满溢貌。宋黄庭坚《放言》诗之五:“罗网翳稻粱,江湖水弥弥。”

Sonnet 73  by Shakespeare



That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou seest the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west,

Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed whereon it must expire

Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.

This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.



translator 柏舟 on










Sonnet 29 by Shakespeare



When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
     For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
     That then I scorn to change my state with kings.



translator 柏舟 on










① 这三句从原诗第10、11、12句转换而来,但意象和语义都作了变动。原诗中的意象元素“啼叫的云雀”被换成了“啼莺”,并增添了“雀跃”的意象成分。“啼莺”是中国传统诗歌中颇为常见的意象,如,“黄莺啼破纱窗晓”(张元干),“嫩莺啼破清昼”(谢薖/张鎡),“破晓啼鶯先唤人”(陆游),“明月晓啼莺;莺啼晓月明”(晁端礼)等。“雀跃”意为欣喜之极,如雀之跳跃。这两个意象的组合鲜明地表现了诗人由悲变喜的心境。“春风明月楼”是这一心境的自然伸展。“春风”这一意象多用于形容人的喜悦心情,故有“春风得意”之语。“明月楼”在中国诗歌中多为表现恋人思念的意象,如,“亭上谁家子,哀哀明月楼”(陈子昂),“清晨鼓棹过江去,千里相思明月楼”(李白),“谁家今夜扁舟子,何处相思明月楼”(张若虚)。但“明月楼”与“春风”组合后却产生出相反的意境,不仅没有偏离全诗的意境,反而使全诗的意象更为丰富。

Editorial note for these four marvelous renditions, all by Mr. Bo Zhou 柏舟 on  :

"残夜沉沉,四野幽幽,独仰斗牛。" is uncalled for as far as the original text goes yet to fit the formal classical verse in its essential regulated tunes 词牌,  such contextual fore-play 伏笔 is most understandably a good crafty scheme.   " 谢家子弟,竞逞风流。"  another extra overtone made with sole affect of boasting Chinese historical signifier to match Shakespeare's plain narratives.  

And this line below, is the finest illustration of "Cultivate the Art of Serendipity" 绝妙的译/异音! 无语伦比。。。


The silver answer rang, – – 'Not Death, but Love.'  泉台柳,原来却是,缕缕相思。

The other worldly silver weeping willow , is love equal to remembrance or recreation in one's own most endearing way?  How Theocritus had sung ... yet resulted and lost in translation to 越人歌咏 ?  and I am forever in his debt for introducing me to Charlotte Turner Smith's  ELEGIAC SONNETS

柏舟's translation, 'To the moon'  is, by far, the most faithful rendition among five sonnets thus transformed. 


​If I were to translate our translator's crafty scheme in my own practice of translation, how might I draw lessons from this daring reformer's refined historical sense, rendering justice to people from and within their own time and place ? 

Last but not the least, I prefer to read Sonnets in English, Triolet in French perhaps and blank verse en blanc ...remember  Wallace Stevens 'Sunday Morning'?   

​– commentary written down in haste on Nov. 4  Friday 2016, after encountering on site 柏舟's post

water and tree scape

Archive of Translations

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