Autumn Wind

by Yuan Xi, translated by Jennifer Zeng and Damian Robin

From far off, Autumn wind runs at us in a rush!
Across a thousand miles, displacing clouds with sky,
(And crowding through the dark, tense soldiers in a hush),
Then past the cliff, through countless pines, like echoes fly.

 

Original Chinese:

秋風 

遼天之末起秋風
千里長驅浮雲空
穿林初疑銜枚走
過崖猶響萬壑松

 

Translator’s note: “銜枚走” (hold in mouth/bear, trunk, walk) is hard to translate or make much sense in English. It has no overt reference to soldiers, battle, or night attack. The author, Yuan Xi, said that in old times when soldiers were launching an attack secretly, they usually held something in their mouth – and put something like a tree branch inside their horses’ mouths – so that there would be no “unexpected” sound to betray their surprise attack. Xi said when the wind passed through the woods, it gave her a feeling of tension, secrecy, just like that of a secret attack in the night. “銜枚走” is easy to understand in Chinese, as in movies these scenes are often shown; but in English, people could find it hard to understand. So Xi agreed with the statement of a soldiers’ secret attack.

Yuan Xi is a poet, columnist, and screenwriter. She was forced to leave China after being persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party for her belief in Falun Dafa. She currently lives in the United States and writes columns, poetry, commentaries and articles about Chinese history for a number of overseas publications. She also writes TV drama series scripts for New Realms Studios in Canada.

 

Autumn Fall – On Communism Now

by Damian Robin

The Wheel of Seasons drives the Party down;
But in the tripping leaf loss, still there’s red,
Late ideology still wants to drown,
Flood minds with mud, gag Noble Spirit dead.

Now shown to Public Gaze through foliage,
The Party lies and piled proclivities
Muck out like Hell towards Deception’s edge,
Decayed confection laced with failed disease.

Its mess on walkways wields a smell that’s off;
Organic mounds redress decay with sloth;
With, now, its tasteless culture peeling off,
The sky resounds through branches pared for growth.

The Red Beast stalls and falls towards its Fall
While Spring is here for all to hear its Call.

 

 

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9 Responses

  1. J. Simon Harris

    I don’t know any Chinese, so I can’t judge your translations on their faithfulness to the originals, but they are both very well written. The first reminds me of some of the poetry of Tu Fu (or Du Fu). I also found your footnote very interesting, and I think you handled the dilemma quite capably. Those untranslatable words and phrases are part of what makes translation so difficult, but also fun.

    The second poem is clearly more politically charged, and I think all the more powerful for having been written by a Chinese exile. I am curious about the form. Did you impose the sonnet form on the translation, or is the original written in some Chinese equivalent of the sonnet?

    Anyway, very nice work.

    Reply
    • Monty

      I think you’ll find, J, that only the first poem was written by the ‘exile’; the second one by a british man known to her.

      Reply
      • J. Simon Harris

        Oops, my mistake! Thanks for pointing that out, Monty. I’d better pay more attention to detail in the future. Kudos to Mr. Robin, then, and I retract my question about the sonnet form.

  2. Monty

    Yeah, the second one, J, was Mr Robin’s own words (and, plainly, feelings on the subject). But if it HAD’VE been written/translated by the exile; I can fully understand your curiosity regarding the sonnet-form.

    Incidentally, after reading both pieces earlier . . I clicked on Mr Robin’s name; and it transpires that he’s previously written many such pieces for SCP on the same subject.

    Reply
    • Damian Robin

      Thanks Monty and J Simon, Xi Yuan, who wrote the original of the first poem, holds true to traditional Chinese poetry and is praised by many Chinese as a reincarnation of a Chinese poet (it may actually be Du Fu – I’ll check). So it’s not surprising there is connection to Du Fu / Tu Fu.

      The footnote is by Jennifer Zeng who does the brunt of the translation and I (try to) tidy her rendition into more formal English verse.

      More of Xi Yuan’s originals and Jennifer’s free verse translations can be found at White Cloud Poetry Society https://www.whitecloudpoetrysociety.org
      https://www.whitecloudpoetrysociety.org/-english/

      Reply
  3. C.B. Anderson

    I cannot comment on the translation, but the poem itself, as rendered in English, leaves much to be desired. The English diction is all over the place, with many dangling phrases. Perhaps these poems would read better if the translations were re-translated back into Chinese.

    Reply
    • Damian Robin

      hi CB, thanks for comment. Only the top poem is a translation.
      I’d be interested in a fuller account of both poems’ lacks, particularly ‘hanging phrases’. It’s a term I thought I understood. Obviously I have not as you note them here and I was not intentionally putting them in.

      Reply
  4. Mark Stone

    Mr. Robin, Hello. Here are my comments on the second poem.

    1. I would put a comma at the end of line 1, since the second line starts with “But”

    2. I would put a period at the end of line 2, since it seems that line 3 is the beginning of a new sentence.

    3. When I read “The party lies” in line 6, I thought that “lies” was a verb. When I finished reading line 6, I realized that “lies” was intended to be a noun. To prevent such a misreading, you could change “Party” to “Party’s”. It would read:

    The Party’s lies and piled proclivities

    I like the alliteration and assonance in this line, by the way.

    4. I was going to comment that “towards” should be “toward.” But then I went to grammarly.com, where it says that both are correct, that “towards” is the more common spelling in the U.K., and that “toward” is the more common spelling in the U.S.

    5. I recommend that the third stanza have true rhymes, and here is my suggestion:

    The smell’s so foul I feel like stealing off.
    Organic mounds, decay, and sometimes both.
    Now with its tasteless culture peeling off,
    The sky resounds through branches pared for growth.

    It’s not perfect, but rhymes for “peeling off” are in short supply. The first line above provides a double alliteration, assonance, consonance, and ambiguity in that “stealing off” has two meanings. There’s the regular meaning of “discretely sneaking away,” and there’s the Urban Dictionary meaning of “to punch or hit someone as a result of the person upsetting you.”

    6. I hope these comments have value. Thank you for sharing your poem with us.

    Reply
    • Damian Robin

      Thanks, Mark, Your comments are helpful and the suggested changes are subtle. I will have to be thoughtful and make comparisons between your suggestions and what I have put here.

      Reply

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