Wen Yiduo: Dead Backwater (From Modern Chinese)

A perhaps ill-advised attempt at translating a poem from modern Chinese, which I don't read fluently. I'm much better at the Classical language. Modern Chinese requires me to puzzle through the text a bit. There will probably be more such ill-advised attempts.  I tried to use an anapest-differentiated version of iambic pentameter for the rather ingenious metrical pattern that appears to be used here. 

(Later note: I've revised this poem based on considerations of, and comments on, the tone of the original. Having been told what sǐshuǐ means in idiomatic Chinese, I've revised the title and the relevant lines containing it.)

Dead Backwater
By Wén Yīduō
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

This is a ditch of hopeless dead backwater,
Fresh breezes can't breathe a ripple from its skin.
You'd better junk all your old scrap metal here
Or dump the leftovers of your dinner in.

Maybe the copper will turn to emerald green
And in tin cans' rust peach blossom petals bloom.
Then let the grease weave a layer of silk brocade
For bacteria to brew up into twilight spume.

Let dead backwater ferment into green liquor
Brimming with floating pearls in its white scum,
Sweet little pearls that chuckle up into big pearls
And burst when liquor-raiding mosquitoes come.

So may a ditch of hopeless dead backwater
Still boast something bright and lively all along.
If the frogs cannot tolerate the desolation
Hear the dead backwater croak up in a song!

This is a ditch of hopeless dead backwater
It isn't a place of beauty at any rate. 
Better let Hellion Ugliness cultivate it
And see what kind of world it will create.

The Original:

死水         Sǐshuǐ

聞一多        Wén Yīduō

這是一溝絕望的死水, Zhè shì yīgōu juéwàngde sǐshuǐ,

清風吹不起半點漪淪。 qīngfēng chuī bùqǐ bàndiǎn yīlún
不如多扔些破銅爛鐵, Bùrú duō rēng xiē pòtóng làntiě,
爽性潑你的剩菜殘羹。 shuǎngxìng pō nǐde shèngcài cángēng.

也許銅的要綠成翡翠, Yěxǔ tóngde yāo lǜ chéng fěicuì,

鐵罐上鏽出幾瓣桃花; tiěguàn shàng xiù chū jǐ bàn táohuā;
再讓油膩織一層羅綺, zài ràng yóunì zhī yī céng luōqǐ,
黴菌給他蒸出些雲霞。 méijūn gěi tā zhēng chū xiē yúnxiá.

讓死水酵成一溝綠酒, Ràng sǐshuǐ jiàochéng yī gōu lǜjiǔ,

飄滿了珍珠似的白沫; piāo mǎnle zhēnzhū shìde báimò;
小珠們笑聲變成大珠, xiǎo zhūmen xiàoshēng biànchéng dà zhū,
又被偷酒的花蚊咬破。 yòu bèi tōujiǔde huāwén yǎopò.

那麼一溝絕望的死水, Nàme yī gōu juéwàngde sǐshuǐ,

也就誇得上幾分鮮明。 yějiù kuā déshàng jǐfēn xiānmíng.
如果青蛙耐不住寂寞, Rúguǒ qīngwā nàibuzhù jìmò,
又算死水叫出了歌聲。 yòusuàn sǐshuǐ jiàochūle gēshēng.

這是一溝絕望的死水, Zhè shì yī gōu juéwàngde sǐshuǐ,

這裡斷不是美的所在, zhèlǐ duàn bùshì měide suǒzài,
不如讓給醜惡來開墾, bùrú ràng gěi chǒu'è lái kāikěn,
看他造出個什麼世界。 kàn tā zàochū gè shénme shìjiè.

No comments:

Post a Comment

There was an error in this gadget