A Song of Everlasting Sorrow (Regret)

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow (Regret) (長 恨 歌) by Bai Juyi (772-846) retells the love story of the beautiful Yang Guifei (719-756) and Tang Emperor Xuanzong, and the cause of the An Lushan Rebellion that began in December of 755.

Beautiful Yang Guifei is said to have had “a face that put all flowers to shame”. The story is told that the young Yang Guifei, locked in the palace, lamented to the peony and the rose, flower, flower full of bloom when shall I see the light of day? The flowers and their leaves, either in sorrow or shame, drooped as she passed.

There are over 100 verses, and so I must come back from time to time to complete the translation.

Yes, there are many, many translations.

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow (Regret) (長 恨 歌)

A Chinese Emperor longed for a beauty to match his kingdom
Looking, ever looking, without finding until
In the family Yang a young girl was growing and maturing
Kept well-hidden and unknown, yet one
Who is naturally beautiful cannot hide their own beauty, thus
One day she met the emperor and
Returned his look with a smile, so beginning one hundred beautiful lives,
As the girls of six hundred houses lost their luster

長 恨 歌

漢皇重色思傾國
御宇多年求不得
楊家有女初長成
養在深閨人未識
天生麗質難自棄
一朝選在君王側
回眸一笑百媚生
六宮粉黛無顏色

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Grasses

Living in the Great Plains in the state of Kansas, it is appropriate that I tackle the poem Grasses (草) by Tang poet Bai Juyi (白 居 易 ).  The English translation is followed by French and then the original Chinese.

Grasses

From year to year, the withered grass
In all its glory lies on the plain
Wildfires burn but do not exhaust as
Spring wind blows and once more it’s green

A distant fragrance travels the ancient road
And like a bright emerald joins the city wall
Dear friend, once again you are gone
And the lush grass is full of farewell

French

Les Herbes

Année après année,  l’herbe fanée
Dans toute sa splendeur se reste sur la plaine
Furieux les feux brûlent mais n’épuisent pas
Le vent du printemps souffle et une fois de plus en vert

Un parfum lointain parcourt l’ancienne route
Et comme une émeraude brillante rejoint le mur de ville
Cher ami, encore une fois vous êtes parti
Et l’herbe luxuriante est pleine d’adieux

Chinese

离离原上草 一岁一枯荣
野火烧不尽 春风吹又生

远芳侵古道 晴翠接荒城
又送王孙去 萋萋满别情

Bai Juyi

Bai Juyi (772 – 846) described himself as a self made man, who studied hard to pass the imperial exams, gave honor to his parents, then duty and service to the imperial family, and care and love to his wife and child.

During his long career, he was the governor of three Chinese provinces. His postings included governor of Zhongzhou (818), Hangzhou (822), and, later, Suzhou. In 829 he was appointed mayor of Luoyang, the eastern capital, retiring in 842.

His insightful observations include this one: “If a Fleeting World is but a long, long dream, it matters not whether one is old or young.” At the end of spring.

Notes

I translate wangsun (王孙), the Chinese characters from the last line of the poem as dear friend. Much time could be spent interpreting these characters. They also represent a surname, a plant that tastes somewhat bitter, and literally, sun king, or grandson of the king.

 

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