On the Festival of the Moon to Sub-official Zhang
- Poetry of Han Yu

《八月十五夜赠张功曹》

- Last updated: 2024-04-22 14:38:17

On the Festival of the Moon to Sub-official Zhang by Han Yu
中文原文

纤云四卷天无河,清风吹空月舒波。

沙平水息声影绝,一杯相属君当歌。

君歌声酸辞且苦,不能听终泪如雨。

洞庭连天九疑高,蛟龙出没猩鼯号。

十生九死到官所,幽居默默如藏逃。

下床畏蛇食畏药,海气湿蛰熏腥臊。

昨者州前槌大鼓,嗣皇继圣登夔皋。

赦书一日行万里,罪从大辟皆除死。

迁者追回流者还,涤瑕荡垢清朝班。

州家申名使家抑,坎轲只得移荆蛮。

判司卑官不堪说,未免捶楚尘埃间。

同时辈流多上道,天路幽险难追攀。

君歌且休听我歌;我歌今与君殊科。

一年明月今宵多,人生由命非由他,有酒不饮奈明何?


English Translation

The fine clouds have opened and the River of Stars is gone,

A clear wind blows across the sky, and the moon widens its wave,

The sand is smooth, the water still, no sound and no shadow,

As I offer you a cup of wine, asking you to sing.

But so sad is this song of yours and so bitter your voice

That before I finish listening my tears have become a rain:

"Where Lake Dongting is joined to the sky by the lofty Nine-Doubt Mountain,

Dragons, crocodiles, rise and sink, apes, flying foxes, whimper....

At a ten to one risk of death, I have reached my official post,

Where lonely I live and hushed, as though I were in hiding.

I leave my bed, afraid of snakes; I eat, fearing poisons;

The air of the lake is putrid, breathing its evil odours....

Yesterday, by the district office, the great drum was announcing

The crowning of an emperor, a change in the realm.

The edict granting pardons runs three hundred miles a day,

All those who were to die have had their sentences commuted,

The unseated are promoted and exiles are recalled,

Corruptions are abolished, clean officers appointed.

My superior sent my name in but the governor would not listen

And has only transferred me to this barbaric place.

My rank is very low and useless to refer to;

They might punish me with lashes in the dust of the street.

Most of my fellow exiles are now returning home --

A journey which, to me, is a heaven beyond climbing."

...Stop your song, I beg you, and listen to mine,

A song that is utterly different from yours:

"Tonight is the loveliest moon of the year.

All else is with fate, not ours to control;

But, refusing this wine, may we choose more tomorrow?"

Seven-character-ancient-verse

Why Chinese poems is so special?
The most distinctive features of Chinese poetry are: concision- many poems are only four lines, and few are much longer than eight; ambiguity- number, tense and parts of speech are often undetermined, creating particularly rich interpretative possibilities; and structure- most poems follow quite strict formal patterns which have beauty in themselves as well as highlighting meaningful contrasts.
How to read a Chinese poem?
Like an English poem, but more so. Everything is there for a reason, so try to find that reason. Think about all the possible connotations, and be aware of the different possibilities of number and tense. Look for contrasts: within lines, between the lines of each couplet and between successive couplets. Above all, don't worry about what the poet meant- find your meaning.

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