Friday, 11 November 2011

Idle Recollections (Du Mu)

I'd like to offer you my translation of a poem by the 9th century Tang dynasty poet Du Mu

The image is of modern-day Yuangzhou in China where the poem was set. Enjoy!

Idle Recollections

Lost, my spirit roamed carefree,
Rivers and lakes its scenery,
Gladdened by wine and girls from Chu
Whose slender waists my palms once knew.
Ten years, and then as if in sleep,
I wakened from this dream so deep
To find the only fame I'd won
Was in love's haunts for love undone.

Yangzhou bliss had brought no favour,
Just idle memories to savour.


  1. Wow, this is lovely, thank you.

  2. Wow, that was a quick response! Thank you for reading :) Wishing a good-night and a good weekend!

  3. Beautiful, Okei. Thanks for the poem and the image.

  4. Thanks Lin & Jon!!

    I woke up this morning, and I think I have a much better last line now... instead of
    "Except in lairs that lovers savour."

    "Just idle memories to savour",
    which recalls the title of the poem also.

    I really ♥ how it sounds now. :)))

  5. Oh, the tinkerer in me comes out again... I could also replace the last four lines...

    "To find the only fame I'd won
    Was in love's mansions, love undone.
    Yangzhou bliss has brought no favour
    Just idle memories to savour."


    "To find the only name I'd won
    Was memories of love undone.
    Yangzhou bliss has brought no favour
    Except in mansions lovers savour."

  6. Changes the meaning quite a lot.

    I think I prefer #1

  7. Thanks Jon. I need to edit again. The original says something like his fame for fickle love has brought him into disrepute except in houses of love.

    Just recording my previous edit
    "To find the only name I'd won
    Was disrepute for careless fun.
    Except in haunts lovers savour,
    Yangzhou bliss has brought no favour."

    But now I've changed it. Maybe "love undone" should be replaced with "careless fun", but otherwise the version in the main body is surely an almost-final version. so hopefully it's at least as good as all the previous ones, and really sorry about the edits.

  8. Like seeing the swan paddling furiously under the surface, I'm losing my appearance of effortlessness, lol.

  9. Happy, happy, happy :)

    Logically, it should be "the only fame I'd won/ Was in love's haunts for careless fun", but "love haunts for love undone" seems to sound better... the "d" sound is somehow really important throughout the poem?

    Ah, more ideas "in love's haunts for casual fun"... and "bliss left me no favour" hopefully giving an allusion to the transient favours of the love haunts. And I think I prefer the old first line... "Lost, my spirit roamed carefree".

  10. I wonder whether people prefer the version in the blog with these edits included, or the version in the video which I posted in an earlier comment?

  11. It'd be interesting to see, Okei.

  12. Thanks Jon! My bump didn't work to attract others back. It's quite interesting to try to work out which is the unconscious and which the "me" getting in my own way. The video version is somehow closer to the former. Still not sure what "love undone" is supposed to mean, but it somehow seems to sound better. Of course, rational "me" can't stand the ambiguity. :)

    A short entertainment:

    Alone Drinking (Du Mu)

    Outside my window pane, snow blows in a straight line.
    I snuggle against the stove and reach for the flasked wine.
    Like a fishing boat in rain, my room seems to shiver
    As I sail into sleep down an autumn river.

  13. And another :)

    Mountain Journey (Du Mu)

    Far up on cold mountain, the stone path circles high,
    To a place among white clouds, a village in the sky.
    Travelling by carriage in the sunset's evening glow,
    A lightness fills my heart, a love more bright than snow.
    I stop and marvel at the maple forest bowers,
    Their frosty leaves are redder than February's flowers.

  14. Pure Brightness Festival (Du Mu)

    At the time of Pure Brightness Festival, rain-drenched and spattered,
    A traveller coming up the road, his spirit almost shattered,
    Politely asks a shepherd-boy where he might find a lodge to stay.
    To far-off apricot-blossom hamlet, the young lad points the way.

    I've now posted the last two poems with accompanying images here :)