29 mar. 2005

ON PHOENIX TOWER IN CHIN LIN

In its travels, the phoenix stopped at Phoenix Tower,
but soon left the tower empty, the river flowing away.

Blossoms and grasses burying the paths of an Wu palace,
Chin's capped and robed nobles all ancient gravemounds,

the peaks of Triple Mountain float beyond azure heavens,
and mistream in open waters, White-Egret Island hovers.

It's all drifting clouds and shrouded sun. Lost there,
our Ch'ang-an's nowhere in sight. And so begins grief.

--David Hinton

ON CLIMBING IN NAN-KING TO THE TERRACE OF PHOENIXES

Phoenixes played here once, so that the place was named for them,
Have abandoned it now to this desolate river;
The paths of Wu Palace are crooked with weeds;
The garments of Chin are ancient dust.
. . . Like this island of White Egrets dividing the river,
A cloud has arisen between the Light of Heaven and me,
To hide his city from my melancholy heart.

--Wytter Bynner

Two versions of what I take to be the same Li Po poem. Hinton seems to want the reader to slow down and puzzle through each line, whereas Bynner strives for a more fluid effect. didn't understand "Chin's capped" in Hinton's version until I realized it was "capped and robed nobles" and that Chin was a place, not part of a face. Different as they are, I like both versions. Hinton received a grant from the Witter Bynner foundation for his translation, but leaves Bynner out of his bibliography.