Saturday, December 8, 2007

The things kids say…

Today at Taichung Ichung (my Saturday class) I decided the students would translate Li Bai's quintessential Tang poem, "Night Thoughts" (Yè Si). I did this last year for the same class but unfortunately I don't think I wrote down their version. This year, with a different group of guys, I was tickled by their translation (seven groups doing one line each) and decided to preserve it. I will add the Chinese later when I have more time (between periods right now). Admittedly some of the poetic touches are due to my hand, but the guys did the lion's share; I just trimmed the mane.

A kettle of wine lies int he flowers, but no friends drink with me.
Raising a wineglass, I toast the moon. Me, my shadow, and the moon make for three.
The moon has no idea how fine this wine is. My shadow is with me step by step.
The moonlight shadows joined me for a time. We shall find joy when spring is upon us.
I sing when the moon surrounds me, I dance and the reflection is shattered.
We woke and together we laughed; we became drunk and had to art ways.
This heartless wandering will be over soon; then we shall be reunited at that silver river.

What's interesting is that, because enrollment was so large and another teacher bailed on the class, I will do this same activity in the next group this afternoon. Let's see what they come up with. Somehow it seems wrong to translate such a poem without actual drink at hand, but, alas, I shall have to restrain my self in the name of teacher-decorum! Young minds and young livers and all that, Heh!

Now, here is the translation for this afternoon's class (with three versions of line 7, due to there being three rather than six groups):

A bottle of wine lies between the flowers. I drink alone.
I raise my cup to toast the moon; counting my shadow make three of us.
The moon doesn't understand the happy feeling that I drink.
My shadow is suddenly close beside me; to accompany the moon is to know many shadows.
The moon lingered when I sang; the shadow was a mess when I danced.
We had a good time when we weren't drunk; we left each other after we were.
(a) By always befriending things without emotion, I hope we can enjoy together the stars in the sky.
(b) Permanent friends on a trip without feeling, we arrange a date to see the river river.
(c) We make an eternal appointment for a trip without feeling along the starry river.

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