It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a poem, but someone asked my to help translate a Chinese poem so I thought I’d post the results.
Translating poems is tricky because usually understanding the literal meaning of the words doesn’t help you capture the poetic nature. Words that rhyme in one language do not rhyme in another. Not to mention metaphors and figures of speech.
Fortunately this poem is about nature, specifically migrating birds, so the metaphors aren’t quite as strong. Still, it was tricky trying to get it into an English poem. Did I succeed? Who knows? That’s the nice thing about poetry it’s subjective.
Here are the Chinese characters
As you can see there are sixteen characters. Now, someone else did the hard work translating the literal meaning of the characters. That literal meaning does not make a poem in English so I tried my hand at making one. The nice thing is that unless you can read Chinese and English, you’ll just have to take my word for it. If you can read both I guess you can check my work. Either way I hope you enjoy it. I did two separate versions.
Hear the sound of wild geese calling
Leaving in autumn when the leaves are falling
They will find upon returning
Their old home to rest from their sojourning
When the Autumn leaves fall the wild geese fly
Their departing calls echo from the sky
In spring the birds returning find
The same sweet home they left behind
As you can see it took a lot more English words than Chinese characters. Which one did you like better?