Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Spring Dawn

So the last post (beside the "history of translations" one) was a song titled "a flower petal", so I thought I'd link it to «Do you know how many flowers have fallen», which is the ending line of the Chinese poem we're dealing with today. The poem is called "春晓 | Chūn Xiǎo | Spring Dawn", and is by the poet 孟浩然 | Mèng Hàorán. The history of the translation is discussed in depth on the Youtube video I made about it , so let's get into the poem. Below you find a 3-column table with the Chinese text, the Pinyin for that text, and a word-for-word English translation to show you why it is impossible to keep the meter (4 lines of 5 syllables each) in English, let alone in Arabic.

The original text

Chūn Xiǎo

Chūn mián bù jué xiǎo,
Chùchù wén tí niǎo;
Yè lái fēng yǔ shēng,
Huā luò zhī duõshǎo?
Spring Dawn

Spring sleep not feel dawn,
Place-place hear tweet bird;
Night come wind rain sound,
Flower fall know many-few?

Next, the English verse translation, which double the syllables per line (and this is about as close as I can get to keeping the meter). It dates to just before the posting of the video.


If in spring you sleep and do not feel dawn,
With birds a-singing everywhere you go;
Then, when night comes with sound of wind and rain,
Do you know just how many flowers fell?
And finally, the Arabic translation. This is prose but with cantilation, as illustrated by the video. A first version, which I will, provided I find it, place at the end of the post, dates to Jan/Feb 2013. The second version, which is almost the one below, modulo a couple changes I'll point out after the translation, dates to between Dec 27 2015 and Jan 4 2017. The couple changes date to the day before the posting of the video. The transliteration scheme is my own. In particular, I differ from the "standard" transliteration in the following respects: I use ŕ for the left-quote transliterating ŕayn (ع), because using left-quote and right-quote for two different sounds dounds like complete madness to me, and because the sound of ŕayn sounds like a particular kind of "r moscia" (nonstandard pronunciation of the Italian phoneme /r/); I prefer using th and dh to ṯ and ḏ for the dental fricatives (ث and ذ), because it is quicker to type and easier to read; I use gh for ghayn (غ), for similar reasongs to th and dh; I guess I did not have to think about what to do with kha (خ), but either kh or x are fine: x is IPA, kh is just as easy to type and read; standard probably has ḵ, which I doff for the same reasongs as ṯ and ḏ; should ta-ha, dal-ha or kaf-ha ever occur, to avoid confusion with tha, dhal and kha, I'd use t.h, d.h and k.h respectively; I doffed š for šin in favor of sh, with the same solution to sin-ha combinations, for the same reasons. The Arabic spelling below is just dropping all vowels and putting in random hamzas for glottal stops, so if you see any mistake, please point it out in comments, and I will correct it. So here goes. While doing the checkup, I realized that I had a couple of transliteration errors in the video. Here is the original transliteration. I also fixed the spelling: here is what it was originally. I only checked the final translation, not the stuff below.

الفجر في الربيع

،إذا في الربيع نمت و لم تشعر الفجر
عندما في كل مكان تسمع أن الطيور تغني؛
،ايذن، عندما الليلت أتى و الريح و المطر صوت
هل تتعرف كم إوراك وكعوا؟
'al-fajri fī 'ar-rabīṙi

'idhā fī 'ar-rabīŕi nimta wa lam tashŕuru 'al-fajra
Ŕindamā fī kull makān tasmaŕu 'anna 'aṭ-ṭuyūra tughannī
'īdhan, ŕindamā 'al-laylu 'atā wa 'ar-rīḥu wa 'al-maṭaru ṣawwata
Hal tataŕarrafu kam 'awrāqun waqaŕū?
A translation mistake

Back in 2013, and also in 2015/6, I was convinced that 花落 | huāluò was a single verb meaning "waste". I might have had this idea since I "knew" huā means "waste" other than "flower", so I thought it was just a compound verb. In effect, huā means "to spend", and I had seen it in Lau-moi A-fa, a song I will post sometime, in the "verb" 乱花 | luànhuā, which means "to spend crazily", or "to squander". This is why the 2015/6 version ended with «وَ اللَيْل أَتَى وَ الرِيحْ وَ المَطَرْ، صَوَّتُوا / هَل تَتَعَرَّفُ كَمْ فَقَدْتَ؟», transliteration «Wa al-layl 'atā wa ar-rīḥ wa al-maṭar ṣawwatū, Hal tataṛarrafu kam faqadta?» (with a few non-classical endings as well), and the original English version ended with «And the night comes, with sound of wind and rain, / You've wasted lots! Do you know just how much?».

The original 2013 version

الفجر في الربيع

إذا في الربيع نمت و لم تشعر الفجر
عندما في كل مكان تسمع أطيار يغنين؛
و الليل أتيت و الريح و المطر يصوتون
هل تتعرف كم فقدت؟
'al-fajri fī 'ar-rabīṙi

'idhā fī al-rabīŕ nimta wa lima tašaŕuru al-fajr,
Ŕindamā fī kull makān tasmaŕu 'aṭyār yuġannīn;
Wa al-layla 'atayta wa al-rīḥ wa al-maṭar ṣawwattū,
Hal tataŕarrafu kam faqadta?

A few final remarks

I notice that the tense choice in the Arabic is partially bullcrap. "nimta" is past because if-clauses in Arabic always want that, but "tašaŕuru", coordinate to "nimta", is not. Then, by influence of this, "'atā" and "ṣawwata" are past, though with the new structuring, which places those verbs outside the if-clause in a "when-clause" of their own, they should be present (right?), i.e. "ya'tī" and "yuṣawwitu" respectively, all singular because «with things and objects verbs are always singular», or at least that's what I gathered from the correction of my Lebanese friend, who corrected earlier yughannūna to yughannī (actually, I then moved to tughannī for gender reasons). Finally, it is my impression that "yaqdamu" is a more appropriate verb here than "ya'tī": the former is given by Wiktionary as a translation of the sense "to arrive, to appear", whereas the latter is a translation of "to move nearer", and the former sense seems the better fit here. But that is just speculation-y. Any comments are welcome, of course.
Very last thing: for facebook friends, you can view a post about this translation here.

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