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Jueju and Haiku in the West

(2007-08-26 01:21:09)
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分类: 中英互译
 
Jueju and Haiku in the West

 

Ronald Chance

03-12-31----04-8-4

Translated from my article《绝句为何被俳句挤出国际诗坛》

Published in www.westca.com on Nov. 23, 05

 

Keeping in pace with the internationalizing of society, different cultures exchange often and people have more and more international communication. People understand the discrepancies and features of different cultures increasingly better. I find a problem that is worth exploring in this cultural exchange is “Why has Jueju, a four-line Chinese traditional poem, been squeezed out of the international poetic world by Haiku?”

Tang Poetry (618-907) is well known for its long history, majestic manner, elegant style, deep artistic conception, and free and natural verve. Since S. Jenyns, an English poet and Sinologist, translated “300 Tang Poems” into English in the eighteenth century, many Sinologists and Chinese poetry-translating masters have made different contributions to introduce Tang Poetry to the world. However, I regret that Jueju, a Tang poetry form with the essence of traditional Chinese poetry, has still not been recognized Western culture. After Haiku was introduced from Japan to France then to Britain and America at the end of the 19th century or at the first of the 20th century, it has been put in the Modern Chinese Dictionary and many English Dictionaries, such as the Gage Canadian Dictionary, 1973, the American Heritage Dictionary,1982, and the New Illustrated Webster’s Dictionary, 1992.

Haiku has also been introduced in Canadian high schools textbooks. When teachers teach varies poetry styles in closed form and free verse, they usually introduce Haiku to the students. Some teachers even demand that their students write Haiku in English. It can be said that people who have studied in Canadian high schools generally know that Haiku is a traditional Japanese poem with 17 syllables (5-7-5) in three lines. Here is an example of a Haiku written in Japanese by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), a master of Haiku with a Japanese transliteration:

 

古池(ふるいけ)や                                 Fu Ru I Ke Ya

蛙飛(かわずとび)びこむ                     Ka Wa Zu To Bi Ko Mu

水(みず)の音(もと)                              Mi Zu No O To

 

Unfortunately few non-Chinese people in the West know of Jueju because it has not been introduced into the textbooks. Doesn’t its artistic quality surpass Haiku? Did Haiku have a swift-footed arrival first into the West? Did Japan open the country to the outside world earlier than China? Or did Japan have a higher international literary standing than China?

I am sure Jueju has higher artistic quality than Haiku. Though Haiku has fewer syllables than Jueju, it doesn’t mean that Haiku is more concise than Jueju. If the Haiku above was translated literally into Chinese, only a line of Jueju, seven Chinese characters, would express that, “蛙跃古池击水声” (a frog makes a water sound when it plops in an old pond). On the other hand, I believe that Haiku developed from Jueju. We can see the shadows of ancient Chinese poems in some of Matsuo Basho’s Haiku. Let’s compare his Haiku about autumn with a poem from the Song Dynasty and a Qu (a Chinese poetic genre ) of theYuan Dynasty in the following:

 

A crow

has settled on bare branch--

autumn evening.

By Matsuo Basho

 

A Jueju ( Song Dynasty ) :

 

A sailboat returns dimly from far away,

The fading sun is setting in the west bay.

How many jackdaws disperse about the sky?

Flying towards the shore on a tree to stay.

 

by Liu Zi

Translated by Shifang Zhang

 

And a Qu (Yuan Dynasty):

 

Tune: Sky-pure Sand

 

Dried vines, old trees, evening crows;

A small bridge, a flowing water, men’s home;

An ancient road, west winds, a lean horse;

Sun slants west:

A heart-torn man at sky’s end.

 

by Ma Zhiyuan

 

I wonder if it was coincidence that these three poems had the same artistic conception, or did Basho write this Haiku after studying these two Chinese poems’ inspiration? According to the literal translations of the Haiku,  I am sure that the artistic quality of Matsuo Basho’s Haiku cannot compare with the two poems and neither can its free translation with creativity. His Haiku can’t surpass the Jueju of Li Bai, Du Fu, Wang Changling and Bai Juyi. Matsuo Basho’s fame can’t compare with any of them in the world. On the other hand, there are different tones in Jueju in specific order, antithesis and Chinese characters with ingenious and profound nature but there is none of these in Haiku. The Chinese translations from Haiku are better in poetic flavour and artistic quality than original Haiku because of the advantage of Chinese characters.

China opened its gate to the outside world when The Foreign Movement began in 1860. It was some years earlier than The Meiji Restoration of Japan but the Movement couldn’t change the decay of the Qing Dynasty because of the corruption and incompetence of the government. In 1894 the Sino-Japanese War occurred and Japan quickly won it. During The Meiji Restoration in Japan, a series of reforms brought an end to the country's feudal society, and opened Japan up to technology, culture, art and political and economic systems of the rest of the civilized world. Thus Japan began to develop capitalism and eventually became a strong country in Asia. Therefore, Japan was more powerful than China in its economy, politics and foreign affairs. However, all these were not the main reasons for Haiku to be recognized by most Western people. Haiku stands out in the West because of its special form that is different from others such as Italy’s triplet (a three-line poem, but it is different from Haiku).

However, there are two basic reasons for Jueju not to gain a foothold in West. First, I think, it has to do with translations. It is very difficult to translate the forms and verve of poems into another language, even though there are still some translators who can do that. When we read these translators’ translated poems, we can figure out their original forms although we don’t know the foreign language.

Let’s read the translations of the Haiku mentioned above in Chinese and English in the following:

古池

 

古池碧水深

青蛙扑通跃其身

突发一清音

 

Old Pond

 

Old and quiet pond

Suddenly a frog plops in—

A deep water sound.

 

Besides content, both translations reflect the original form, consisting of 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively.

Another example of a poem translated from English into Chinese:

 

O wind, why do you never rest

Wandering, whistling to and fro,

Bringing rain out of the west,

    From the dim north bringing snow?

 

      By Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

 

 

风啊,你为什么永不沉睡

  来回游荡,不住地喧哗,

你从西天带来雨水,

从昏暗的北面带来雪花?

 

Translated by Shifang Zhang

 

If you understand Chinese, you will recognize that the Chinese translation has the same end rhyme as this English poem (ABAB).

Unfortunately, when Tang poems were introduced into the West, most Sinologists and Chinese translators translated them into English forms. When the Western readers read these poems, they didn’t know their original forms but only knew the contents and the number of lines of the original poems,. Here is a Jueju poem by Li Bai (701--762), the most famous poet of the Tang Dynasty, translated by two different Chinese translators:

 

静夜思

 

床前明月光,

疑是地上霜。

举头望明月,

低头思故乡。

 

Translator 1:

Homesickness in A Silent Night

 

Before my bed the silver moonbeams spread—

I wonder if it is the frost upon the ground,

I see the moon so bright when raising my head,

Withdrawing my eyes my nostalgia comes around.

 

Translator 2:

Reflections on A Quiet Night

 

Before my bed shine bright the silver beams,

It seems the autumn frost on the ground so gleams.

I gaze upwards toward the moon in the skies,

And downwards look when nostalgia does arise.

 

These two translations have the same number of lines but not the same pattern of rhyme as the original Chinese poem. The original rhyme scheme is AABA, but the first translation uses ABAB and the second one AABB. These are popular end rhymes used in English poetry, but they are not Jueju. Furthermore, the original poem has the same number of characters in every line. (Jueju has 7, 7, 7 and 7 as this poem above, or 5, 5, 5 and 5 Chinese characters in every line), but the translated ones have different numbers of syllables (10, 11 or 12) so the translations are not true to the original form.

It is excusable for Western Sinologists to use English rhyme scheme when they translate Jueju but I wonder why Chinese translators can show English poetry rhyme scheme to Chinese people in Chinese when they translate English poems but they do not show Chinese rhyme scheme to Western readers in English when translating Chinese poems into English? It is not impossible for them to do this. Maybe they were affected by the Sinologists’ translated poems, or they wanted to cater to the taste of the Western people. Here is my amendment of the first translated poem to show the original rhyme scheme, AABA and the same syllables in every line.

 

Before my bed the silver moonlight round,

I wonder if it’s the frost on the ground,

I see the bright moon when raising my head,

Bowing my head my hometown comes around.

 

It seems to be that the translators put the Western overcoat on Jueju when they introduced it to the West. That is why Jueju has not, so far, come into Western culture as a style of Chinese poetry. The Western overcoat makes Jueju appear to be an English quatrain. Unfortunately, so many Chinese translators have been keen on the translation method of using the Western overcoat so far. It looks like performing a Beijing Opera in fashionable dress, neither fish nor fowl.

Another possible reason is that the end rhymes of Jueju have been used in English quatrains before Jueju was introduced to the West (I wonder if they stemmed from Jueju). Here are two examples of English poems that have the end rhymes of AABA and ABCB (another end rhyme used by Jueju):

 

(For AABA)

Mother's arms under you,

Her eyes above you;

Sing it high, sing it low,

Love me -- I love you.

 

          By Christina Rossetti

 

Rain (for ABCB)

The rain is raining all around,

It falls on field and tree,

It rain on the umbrellas here,

And on the ships at sea.

 

By R. L. Stevenson (1850-1894)

 

Although these end rhymes are not popular in English poetry, Western people have already used them. Since Jueju has the same line and rhyme pattern as a quatrain, it is unnecessary for Jueju to be successfully introduced to the West as a unique style of Chinese poetry!

According to the above, Jueju can’t get a foothold in West because it has the same form as a quatrain. Haiku has come into the international poetic world because of its unique pattern. But this is only a narrow view from the writer. I hope to acquire more knowledge about this subject from experts and scholars.

 

Bibliography:

    300 Tang Poems Selected and Edited by Wu Juntao  Hunan Chubanshe 1997

    A Hundred Gems of Ancient Chinese Poetry  Selected and Edited by Zhu Liyun, Daxiang Chubanshe 2000

    《浅谈中国诗词对芭蕉诗文创作的影响》 周桔 网上文稿 2002

    《汉语诗律学》       王力著       上海世纪出版集团   2002

    《英诗格律与赏识》      高东山编着商务印书馆       1990

    Grass Sandals—The Travels of Basho by Dawnine Spivak  Illustrated by Demi     1997

    Haiku—One Breath Poetry       Written and Illustrated by Naomi Wakan  Victoria B.C. Pacific Rim Publishers  1993

    Themes on the Journey  Edited by James Barry    Nelson Canada 1989

    Sing-Song  A Nursery Rhyme Book  By Christina Rossetti from the website

10   Nations of The World Japan  by Jen Green  Printed and bound in the United States  2001

11   The Essential Haiku     by Robert Hass   Published in Canada   1994

12   Chinese Poetry Edited and Translated by Wai-lim Yip University of California Press 1976

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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