Today, I am posting a poem on the "Stone City" (present day Nanjing, then called Jinling 金陵) by the great middle Tang dynasty poet Liu Yuxi 劉禹鍚 which I translated last February. I do hope you will enjoy my rendition:-
Liu Yuxi: The Stone City (Five Titles on Jinling #1)
1 Surrounded by hills, this old capital, its environs still in place---
2 Flood-tides still storm the empty city, and ebb, and quiet befalls.
3 East of the waters of Qinhuai River, that same old ancient moon,
4 Deep in the night, still climbs across the jagged battlement walls.
Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發
3rd February 2017
Translated from the original – 劉禹錫: 石頭城 (金陵五題 其一)
*Form, Metre and Rhyme: The original is a 7-character quatrain. This English rendition is in heptameter (7 beats or feet) while the original is in 7-syllable lines. The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.
*Title: 石頭城 (stone, head, city) is the other name for present-day Nanjing 南京 and is used by the poet to refer to Jinling 金陵 which was the capital city of 6 dynasties before the Tang 唐 dynasty (618-907), viz. (1) Wu 吴 or Eastern Wu 東吳 (222-280) in the late Han 漢 period of the Three Kingdoms 三國, (2) Eastern Jin 東晉 (317-420), and the Southern Dynasties of (3) Song 宋 (420-479), (4) Qi 齊 (479-502), (5) Liang 梁 (502-557) and (6) Chen 陳 (557-589).
*Line 1: 國 (state or nation or country) is rendered as “capital” as it is meant to refer not to the state but its capital city. 周遭 (surroundings) is translated literally as “environs”, and 在 (present or exist or intact) is rendered as “in place”. The word “still”, which is implied in all 4 lines, is added here to make abundantly clear the sense of the poem: the city, its environs, the flood-tides, the Qinhuai River, the moon, the battlements are still the same----but the past is gone forever.
*Line 2: As the city is inland, on the south bank of the Yangzi River and quite a distance from its estuary, 潮 (tide) does not refer to tides that occur in very large bodies of water such as seas and large lakes, but to waves of seasonal flood waters of the Yangzi River, and is rendered as “Flood-tides”. 打 (hit or beat or pound) is rendered as “storm” and 回 (return) rendered as “ebb”. I have, as explained in line 1, added the word “still” to qualify “storm … and ebb”. 寂寞 in this context should be taken to mean “calm” or “tranquility” and not “lonely” or “lonesome”, and is rendered as “and quiet befalls” which, also, creates a rhyme for “walls” in line 4.
*Line 3: 淮水 (Huai, water) refers to the “Qinhuai River” and is rendered as such, and 東邊 (east, side) rendered as “East of the waters of” with “waters” added to reflect the presence of the word in the original. 舊時月 is rendered literally as “that same old ancient moon” with “ancient” added to make this second half of the line a perfect iambic trimeter.