Translations
     with S. Ye Laird

We continue 'Ash Wednesday' ( II, III & IV) by Eliot in this issue as the first day of Lent in 2017 falls on March 1st.  I add another translation of Eliot's 'Conversation Galante'.  We also present Thomas Thurman's humorous piece on translation.  And one more by Mao Jing, 茅境translated from Chinese. Wallace Stevens 'The Blue Guitar' was rendered marvelously by Li Jingbing李景冰 into Chinese & continued strumming on by the late P.K Page and read by the 3rd poet Laureate of Canada, Dionne Brand ... 

Ash Wednesday  by T.S. Eliot 

II

Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree/  In the cool of the day, having fed to sateity /  On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained /  In the hollow round of my skull. / And God said /  Shall these bones live? shall these Bones live? And that which had been contained /  In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping: /
Because of the goodness of this Lady /
And because of her loveliness, and because /
She honours the Virgin in meditation, /
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled /  Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love / To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd. / It is this which recovers / My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions / Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn / In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown./ Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said /  Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only / for only The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping / With the burden of the grasshopper, saying / Lady of silences/ Calm and distressed/ Torn and most whole/
Rose of memory/ Rose of forgetfulness/
Exhausted and life-giving/Worried reposeful/
The single Rose/Is now the Garden/
Where all loves end/Terminate torment/
Of love unsatisfiedThe greater torment/Of love satisfied/ End of the endless/ Journey to no end/ Conclusion of all that/ Is inconclusible/ Speech without word and/ Word of no speech/ Grace to the Mother/ For the Garden/ Where all love ends./ Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining/ We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,/Under a tree in the cool of day, with the blessing of sand,/ Forgetting themselves and each other, united /In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity / Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.

III
At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.
At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man’s mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.
At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs’s fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind
over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.
Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy
                              but speak the word only.

IV
Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary’s colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs
Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary’s colour, Sovegna vos

( ... for the rest of "Ash Wednesday" read by Eliot himself ,  follow this link ...) 

《聖灰星期三》-
-- translator  S. Ye Laird  叶澍苍 释译 *
​Unfinished...
I. 

因为我不再乞求变卦
因为我不乞求
因为我不乞求变卦
渴望拥有此人的天才和彼人的天赋
我不再努力不再费心于這些琐事
(为何老鷹必然想要展開翅膀?)
為什麼我必需哀悼
人权,人命与人性的自然完了?
因为我不再乞望我能洞解 
浩渺的历史时流 
因为我无心思考 
因为我知道我永远无法领悟 
唯一的千变万化的神通 
因为我无能化缘** 
在彼岸,树木开花,春泉叮咚, 
在彼岸,万事不复,万物皆空。 
 
因为我知道时空永远是时空 
故土终归只是故土 
事故若为真,必仅有一回 
也尽在一方 
我开心于千事依旧万物自然 
我不求红脸的关公 
也不怕黑脸的张飞 
因为我不再乐意改造我的本性 
自然而然我欣喜若狂,尽心尽意标新立异 
神游于我的世外桃源,怡然自乐无穷稚趣。 
我只求菩萨勒令道长多存怜悯之心 
只求我能够忘却或超脱 
千情百酬中的自相矛盾 
因为我不肯回首 
且让我的言语答应 
好事多磨,何苦无事生非, 
但愿裁决之甲不得以压抑我等俗人。 ​原来 此翼已不再是比翼双飞之翼 
而仅仅是落魄的苟延残喘 
空气稀薄又干燥 , 比意念还要渺小 
我们由此领悟到 无所不在的关怀 
无念的屏息静坐。 
请为我等罪人祈禱,   此刻及死神降临之时 
请为我祈祷, 此刻及临终之际。

Conversation Galante

by T.S. Eliot  1920

 I OBSERVE: “Our sentimental friend the moon!    
Or possibly (fantastic, I confess)    
It may be Prester John’s balloon    
Or an old battered lantern hung aloft    
To light poor travellers to their distress.”            
  She then: “How you digress!”    
 
And I then: “Some one frames upon the keys    
That exquisite nocturne, with which we explain    
The night and moonshine; music which we seize    
To body forth our own vacuity.”            
  She then: “Does this refer to me?”    
  “Oh no, it is I who am inane.”    
 
“You, madam, are the eternal humorist,    
The eternal enemy of the absolute,    
Giving our vagrant moods the slightest twist!            
With your aid indifferent and imperious    
At a stroke our mad poetics to confute—”    
  And—“Are we then so serious?”    

​诗人与繆斯的对白

-- translator  S. Ye Laird  叶澍苍 释译 *

我一板正经的辩说:瞧那多愁善感的月儿
她不也能(奇迹般的,我承认)
装作神父的充气球?
亦或是老朽的灯笼高高在上
映衬出苦行人的落魄无奈。
    她说:你真爱胡言乱语!

 

我接着:有人在琴键上弹奏出
绝妙的小夜曲,于是我们领悟了
夜色与月光;音乐是我们得以
充满自身的空洞与虚无。
   她责问:你在含射我吗?
   “啊,不。我才是糊涂无用!”

 

“我的缪斯,你永遠是那酣甜的猕猴桃
是永恒及绝对理念的死对头
你在我游疑不定的情绪中作祟
以你的漫不经心与傲慢之态
我等狂热激情一击即溃,终显荒谬之猴样。”

乎然 -- “我们是不是要私定终身?”

* When I first encounter this poem "Conversation Galante"  by T.S. Eliot, I  made a remark that Eliot's writing with the moon lady was unlike any other Classic Chinese poet that I know of.  It didn't occur to me that Eliot might describe a vivid conversation, wasn't in a solitary contemplative mood.  In other words, I was mistaken a dialogue so apparent to native English readers for a monologue as depicted in so many ways in classic Chinese poems.  That self-correction prompted me to try a rendition on my own, to see if 1st reaction and 2nd reflection are, after all ,not so far outwardly strange in one way or another.  

Translation
by t j a thurman

 

One of the interesting things about being a writer is that you find people talking about and using your work in ways you'd never considered. A few years after I wrote the poem below, I happened upon the website for a translation competition at a Russian university; the students had been set some texts by German writers whose names I didn't recognize, and James Thurber, and my poem. I love getting surprises like that.

Ah, would I were a German! 
I'd trouble my translator 
With nouns the size of Hamburg 
And leave the verb till later.


And if I were a Welshman 
My work would thwart translation 
With ninety novel plurals 
In strict alliteration.

 

And would I were Chinese! 
I'd throw them off their course 
With twelve unusual symbols 
All homophones of “horse”.

 

But as it is, I'm English: 
And I'm the one in hell 
By writing in a language 
Impossible to spell.

This was originally published in Gentle Readers on 17 Jul 2014.

*  蓝色的故事

by 茅境    translated by S. Ye

 

A story of blue tunes

My story is colored by blue,

The blue that comes from bloody seashells.

My story is colored by purple

It flies over meadow, like doves over violets.

Personalities in my story float over misty lake.

They disperse as soon as sun rises

     chasing away clouds and clearing up frosty  window

My story is hanging on Monks' prayer beads

My story is hard pressed by snowy peaks of mountain tops.

My story rides on the back of migrating birds

        echoing a  strayed one's coo when autumn comes

My story scatters its seed on desolate and barren prairie.

Across bustling cities, I blow my story a few more times

To be assured, it is as light as feather

                unfettered by the heavy city smokes. 

史蒂文斯《弹蓝色吉他的人》

-- translator Li Jingbing 李景冰

I

那人俯向他的吉他,

裁缝的样子。白天是绿的。

 

他们说,“你有把蓝色的吉他,

却没弹奏如其所是的事物。”

 

那人回答,“如其所是的事物

在蓝色的吉他上被改变了。”

 

于是他们说,“弹,就必须弹

出乎我们之外又是我们自身的曲子,

 

一支在蓝色吉他上

完全如事物所是的曲子。”

II
我不能带来一个完整的世界,
虽然我尽量缝补它。
 
我歌唱一个英雄的头,巨大的眼睛
和长胡子的青铜,却不是一个人,

虽然我尽量缝补他
并通过他几乎达到人。
 
如果弹奏小夜曲几乎达到人
由此却失掉如其所是的事物,

就可谓是一个人的小夜曲
在弹奏蓝色吉他。

III
啊,要弹就弹人第一号,
将匕首捅入他的心脏,

将他的脑子摊在板上
剔出那些刻毒的颜色,

将他的思想钉到门上,
让它的翅膀展向雨雪,

击打他活的“嘿”“嗬”,
叮之,当之,将它变成真实,

撞击它,从一种野蛮之蓝,
弦之金属的刺耳噪杂……

the rest in Chinese, see translator's site

The Blue Guitar  -   P. K. Page

They said, ‘You have a blue guitar,

You do not play things as they are.’

The man replied, ‘Things as they are

are changed upon the blue guitar.’

       — “The Blue Guitar” by Wallace Stevens

 

I do my best to tell it true

a thing exceeding hard to do

or tell it slant as Emily

advises in her poetry,

and, colour blind, how can I know

if green is blue or cinnabar.

Find me a colour chart that I

can check against a summer sky.

My eye is on a distant star.

They said, ‘You have a blue guitar.’

 

‘I have,’ the man replied, ‘it’s true.

The instrument I strum is blue

I strum my joy, I strum my pain

I strum the sun, I strum the rain.

But tell me, what is that to you?

You see things as you think they are.

Remove the mote within your ear

then talk to me of what you hear.’

They said, ‘Go smoke a blue cigar!

You do not play things as they are.’

 

‘Things as they are? Above? Below?

In hell or heaven? Fast or slow…?’

They silenced him. ‘It’s not about

philosophy, so cut it out.

We want the truth and not what you

are playing on the blue guitar.

So start again and play it straight

don’t improvise, prevaricate.

Just play things as they really are.’

The man replied, ‘Things as they are

 

are not the same as things that were

or will be in another year.

The literal is rarely true

for truth is old and truth is new

and faceted — a metaphor

for something higher than we are.

I play the truth of Everyman

I play the truth as best I can.

The things I play are better far

when changed upon the blue guitar.’

Copyright  Better Than Starbucks 2017, a poetry magazine

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