Late Spring

Late Spring:
Petals. Fallen. Whirling. Constantly.
Even if withered
They still try to blossom;
In more and more passions.

Swallow’s nest under the
Dwarfish roof of my thatched cottage.
Every day, the birds are flying, coming and going.

Deep, late in the night,
the cuckoo was still singing:
So devoted! So shrilly,
Until she was bleeding.

The songbird doesn’t believe that
With her enthusiasm,
she cannot bring back
The spring now passed away.

–Wang Ling
translation: Peng Qiu Lin [ May 2009 ]

My friend Qiu Lin made this translation.

She says Chinese classical poetry is usually translated very badly. The translations try to be exact, but the effect they create is very dry; quite unlike the feeling of the original Chinese. Chinese is rich in connotation; and the vocabulary of these short poems is rich in layers of subtle meaning, which she has attempted to convey in her freer translation.

I think it’s very good. The result in English is a very beautiful poem. Qiu Lin has a great intuition for the right word to use in English. I’ve read translations Chinese poetry before, but none of them have touched me until now.

This translation also makes much clearer the many levels of metaphorical meaning in the poem — much more so than a dry translation would. Getting older, I feel like that songbird, trying to call back past times with her defiant but futile enthusiasm!