Prompted by a primary school mate who loves Chinese poetry, I came to learn about (or anew) the works of Tang poet Du Mu (杜牧), who was known as much for his amours and philandering habit as for his prodigious literary talent.
Since then, I have developed a keener interest in his poems. As much as I like the light-hearted, romanticist and gallant style of his poetry, he has not surpassed, although he has almost equaled, Su Shi (蘇軾), on my list of top favorites. I must confess, though, that I am still just a dabbler, if not neophyte, in Chinese poetry appreciation.
Inspired by a blogger over at HKEJ’s discussion forum, Wong Wang Fat (黃宏發), former Legislator Council president, who has been posting his English translations of Chinese poetry on the forum and who has recently posted a rendition of Du Mu’s “Given in Parting II” (“贈別: 其二”), I’ve come up with my own rendition of this sentimental, guilt-ridden poem, which was written when the poet had to bid farewell to one of his lovers. In fact, another of his poems that has similar tone and feelings is “Conveying Sentiments” (“遣懷”). I’ve only read part of Du Mu’s collection of poems, and the one I like best is “Autumn Eve” (“秋夕”), of which I’ve also done a rendition below.
Original of “Given in Parting II” (“贈別: 其二”) :-
My heart enslaved, yet heartless I appear.
Chalice emptied, but cheer eludes me, I fear.
At our parting the kind candle grieves,
Weeping till the dawn is near.
Original of “Autumn Eve” (“秋夕”):-
On the cold screen a candle paints the autumn light;
Silk fan in hand, fireflies she chases in pure delight.
Cold stone steps, under a dark chilly sky,
Lying down, watching the stars in pairs, she turns restless.
[Note: A lonely maiden-in-waiting in the imperial court inspired the poet to write this poem on a chilly autumn night.]