Other Translations of 'A River Merchant's Wife"
Transcription of Ernest Fenollosa's Notebook (Pound's Source)
Chokan=name of town / place ko=uta=narrative song
Sho hatsu sho fuku gaku
mistress hair first cover brow
Chionese lay's I or my beginning
My hair was at first covering my brows
(Chinese method of wearing hair)
Setsu kwa mon zen geki
break flowers gate front play
Breaking flower branches I was frolicking in front of our gate.
ro ki chiku ba rai
Second person ride on bamboo horse come
you, young man
lit. young man
When you came riding on bamboo stilts
Gio sho ro sei bai
going round seat play with blue plums (fruit)
And going about my seat, you played with the blue plums.
Do kio cho kan ri
Same dwell cho kan village
Together we dwelt in the same Chokan village.
rio sho mu ken sai
double small not dislike suspcion
And we two little ones had neither mutual dislike or suspicion.
(no evil thots or bashfulness)
ju shi i kun fu
Fourteen became lord's wife
At fourteen I became your wife--
Shu gan mi jo kai
bashful face not yet ever open
Bashful I never opened my face (I never laughed)
Tei to ko am peki
lowering head face black wall
but lowering my head I always faced toward a dark wall ashamed to
see anybody--she sat in dark corners
Sen kan fu itsu kai
thousand call not once looked back
And though a thousand times called, not once did I look around.......
ju go shi tem hi
15 first time open eyebrows
At fifteen I first opened my brows
I first knew what married life meant now she opens her eyebrows.
i.e.. smooths out the wrinkles between her brows. She now began
to understand love, and to be happy.
Gan do jin yo bai
desire same dust together with ashes
And so I desired to live and die with you even after death, I wish to be with
you even as dust, and even as ashes--partially together.
Jo son ho chu shin
eternally preserve embrace pillar faith
I always had in me the faith of holding to pillars
Ki jo bo fu dai
why should climb look out husband terrace
And why should I think of climbing the husband looking out terrace.
Ju roku kun en ko
16 you far go
At 16, however, you had to go far away.
fearful riverside both yen & yo are adj. expressing form of
water passign over hidden rocks
Ku_____ to yen yo tai
of locality eddy?
(towards Shoku passing through the difficult place of Yentotai at Kuto.)
Go getsu a ka shoku
5 month not must touch
In May not to be touched.
The ship must be careful of them in May.
En sei ten jo ai
monkeys voices heaven above sorrowfulo
Monkeys cry sorrowful above heaven.
Mon zen chi ko seki
gate front late go footstep
Your footsteps, made by your reluctant departure, in front of our gate
itsu itsu sei rioku tai
one one grow green mosses
one by one have been grown up into green moss.
Tai shin fu no so
mosses deep not can wipe away
These mosses have grown so deep that it is difficult to wipe them away.
Raku yo shu fu so
Fallen leaves autumn wind early
And the fallen leaves indicate autumn wind which (to my thought only)
appears to come earlier than usual.
Hachi hatsu ko cho ko
8th month butterflies yellow
It being already August, the butterflies are yellow.
So hi sei yen so
pairs fly western garden grass
And yellow as they are, they fly in pairs on the western garden grass.
Kan shi sho sho shin
affected (by) this hurt (female) mind
Affected by this, (absence) my heart pains.
Za shu ko gan ro
gradually lament crimson face decay--older
The longer the sbsence lasts, the deeper I mourn, my early fine pink face,
will pass to oldness, to my great regret.
So ban ka sam pa
sooner (or) later descend three______whirls
name of spot on Yangtse Kiang, where
If you be coming down as far as the Three Narrows sooner or later.
Yo sho shô ho ka
beforehand with letter report family-home
Please let me know by writing
Sho gei fu do yen
mutually meeting not say far
coming to meet
For I will go out to meet, not saying that the way be far,
Choku chi cho fu sa
directly arrive long______wind____sand
a port on the Yangste
And will directly come to Chofusha.
(the port just this sime of Sampa)
from the Pound Center, Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
W. J. B. Fletcher (1919)
THAT PARTING AT CH'ANG KAN
When first o'er maiden brows my hair I tied,
In sport I plucked the blooms before the door.
You riding came on hobbyhorse astride,
And wreathed my bed with greengage branches o'er.
At Ch'ang-kan village long together dwelt
We children twain, and knew no petty strife.
At fourteen years lo! I became thy wife.
Yet ah! the modest shyness that I felt!
My shamefaced head I in a corner hung;
Nor to long calling answered word of mine.
At fifteen years my heart's gate open sprung,
And I were glad to mix my dust with thine.
My troth to thee till death I keep for aye:
My eyes still gaze adoring on my lord.
When I was but sixteen you went away.
In Chü-t'ang Gorge how Yen-yü's billows roared!
For five long months with you I cannot meet.
The gibbon's wail reëchoes to the sky!
Before the door, where stood your parting feet,
The prints with verdant moss are covered high.
Deep is that moss! it will not brush away.
In early autumn's gale the leaflets fall.
September now!---the butterflies so gay
Disport on grasses by our garden wall.
The sight my heart disturbs with longing woe.
I sit and wail, my red cheeks growing old.
Early and late I to the gorges go,
Waiting for news that of thy coming told.
How short will seem the way, if we but meet !
Across the sand the wind flies straight to greet.
Amy Lowell (1921)
BY LI T'AI-PO
When the hair of your Unworthy One first began to cover
She picked flowers and played in front of the door.
Then you, my Lover, came riding a bamboo horse.
We ran round and round the bed, and tossed about the
sweetmeats of green plums.
We both lived in the village of Ch'ang Kan.
We were both very young, and knew neither jealousy nor
At fourteen, I became the wife of my Lord.
I could not yet lay aside my face of shame;
I hung my head, facing the dark wall;
You might call me a thousand times, not once would I turn
At fifteen, I stopped frowning.
I wanted to be with you, as dust with its ashes.
I often thought that you were the faithful man who clung to the
That I should never be obliged to ascend to the Looking-for-
When I was sixteen, my Lord went far away,
To the Ch'ü T'ang Chasm and the Whirling Water Rock
of the Yü River
Which, during the Fifth Month, must not be collided with;
Where the wailing of the gibbons seems to come from the sky.
Your departing footprints are still before the door where I
bade you good-bye,
In each has sprung up green moss.
The moss is thick, it cannot be swept away.
The leaves are falling, it is early for the Autumn wind to
It is the Eighth Month, the butterflies are yellow,
Two are flying among the plants in the West garden;
Seeing them, my heart is bitter with grief, they wound the
heart of the Unworthy One.
The bloom of my face has faded, sitting with my sorrow.
From early morning until late in the evening, you descend
the Three Serpent River.
Prepare me first with a letter, bringing me the news of when
you will reach home.
I will not go far on the road to meet you,
I will go straight until I reach the Long Wind Sands.
From Fir-Flower Tablets
Shigeyoshi Obata (1922)
TWO LETTERS FROM CHANG-KAN--I
(A river-merchant's wife writes)
I would play, plucking flowers by the gate;
My hair scarcely covered my forehead, then.
You would come, riding on your bamboo horse,
And loiter about the bench with green plums for toys.
So we both dwelt in Chang-kan town,
We were two children, suspecting nothing.
At fourteen I became your wife,
And so bashful that I could never bare my face,
But hung my head, and turned to the dark wall;
You would call me a thousand times,
But I could not look back even once.
At fifteen I was able to compose my eyebrows,
And beg you to love me till we were dust and ashes.
You always kept the faith of Wei-sheng,
Who waited under the bridge, unafraid of death,
I never knew I was to climb the Hill of Wang-fu
And watch for you these many days.
I was sixteen when you went on a long journey,
Traveling beyond the Keu-Tang Gorge,
Where the giant rocks heap up the swift river,
And the rapids are not passable in May.
Did you hear the monkeys wailing
Up on the skyey height of the crags?
Do you know your foot-marks by our gate are old,
And each and every one is filled up with green moss?
The mosses are too deep for me to sweep away;
And already in the autumn wind the leaves are falling.
The yellow butterflies of October
Flutter in pairs over the grass of the west garden.
My heart aches at seeing them. . . .
I sit sorrowing alone, and alas!
The vermilion of my face is fading.
Some day when you return down the river,
If you will write me a letter beforehand,
I will come to meet you--the way is not long--
I will come as far as the Long Wind Beach instantly.
Witter Bynner (1929)
A SONG OF CH' ANG-KAN
(Written to Music)
My hair had hardly covered my forehead.
I was picking flowers, playing by my door,
When you, my lover, on a bamboo horse,
Came trotting in circles and throwing green plums.
We lived near together on a lane in Ch'ang-kan,
Both of us young and happy-hearted.
. . .At fourteen I became your wife,
So bashful that I dared not smile,
And I lowered my head toward a dark corner
And would not turn to your thousand calls;
But at fifteen I straightened my brows and laughed,
Learning that no dust could ever seal our love,
That even unto death I would await you by my post
And would never lose heart in the tower of silent watching.
. . .Then when I was sixteen, you left on a long journey
Through the Gorges of Ch'ü-t'ang, of rock and whirling water.
And then came the Fifth-month, more than I could bear,
And I tried to hear the monkeys in your lofty far-off sky.
Your footprints by our door, where I had watched you go,
Were hidden, every one of them, under green moss,
Hidden under moss too deep to sweep away.
And the first autumn wind added fallen leaves.
And now, in the Eighth-month, yellowing butterflies
Hover, two by two, in our west-garden grasses. . . .
And, because of all this, my heart is breaking
And I fear for my bright cheeks, lest they fade.
Oh, at last, when you return through the three Pa districts,
Send me a message home ahead!
And I will come and meet you and will never mind the distance,
All the way to Chang-fêng Sha.
From The Jade Mountain: A Chinese Anthology (New York: Knopf).
Wai-Lim Yip (1976)
1. My hair barely covered my forehead.
2. I played in front of the gate, plucking flowers.
3. You came riding on a bamboo-horse.
4. And around the bed we played with green plums.
5. We were then living in Ch'ang-kan.
6. Two small people, no hate nor suspicion.
7. At fourteen, I became your wife.
8. I seldom laughed, being bashful.
9. I lowered my head toward the dark wall.
10. Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.
11. At fifteen, I began to perk up.
12. We wished to stay together like dust and ash.
13. If you have the faith of Wei-sheng.
14. Why do I have to climb up the waiting tower?
15. At sixteen, you went on a long journey.
16. By the Yen-jü rocks at Ch'ü-t'ang
17. The unpassable rapids in the fifth month
18. When monkeys cried against the sky.
19. Before the door your footprints
20. Are all moss-grown
21. Moss too deep to sweep away.
22. Falling leaves: autumn winds are early.
23. In the eighth month, butterflies come
24. In pairs over the grass in the West Garden.
25. These smite my heart.
26. I sit down worrying and youth passes away.
27. When eventually you would come down from the Three Gorges.
28. Please let me know ahead of time.
29. I will meet you, no matter how far,
30. Even all the way to Long Wind Sand.
From Wai-lim Yip, Chinese Poetry: Major Modes and Genres. (Berkeley: U of California P, 1976. Copyright © 1976 by U of California P.
from Chinese Poetry: Major Modes and Genres, ed
& trans. by Wai-lim Yip
The Song of Ch'ang-Kan (Yüeh-Fu)
(i.e., my, humble term used by women when speaking of themselves)
2. pluck flower/s door front play
3. you ride bamboo horse come
4. circling bed play green plums
5. together live Ch'ang Kan village
6. two small no hate suspicion
7. fourteen -- be your wife
8. she face has-never --- open
9. lower head face dark wall
10. thousand call/s not one turn
11. fifteen -- then unknit brows
12. wish together dust and ashes
13. often keep-in-mind embrace pillar reliability
14. how ascend Watch Husband Terrace
15. sixteen --- you a-long-way go
16. Ch'ü T'ang Yen Yü pile-of-rocks
(in the midst
17. fifth month cannot --- offend
18. ape sound heaven above sorrowful
19. door front late departure foot-step/s
20. each-one -- grow green moss
21. moss deep cannot -- sweep
22. falling leaf autumn wind/s early
23. eighth month butterflies -- come
24. pair fly west garden grass
25. moved-by this hust my heart
26. sit grieve red face old
27. soon late down three Pa's
(i.e., Three Gorges)
28. in-advance (part.) letter inform home
29. (each other) welcome not say far
30. all-the-way-to -- Long Wind Sand
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