Translation exercise: Li Bai's "Drinking alone under the moon"
|From:||Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>|
|Date:||Sunday, August 25, 2002, 19:06|
One of my favorite poems by Li Bai is the following, which
I've decided to use to build my Phaleran vocabulary and
to develop a sense of how Phaleran poetics is fashioned.
(To the latter end, this is only a partial answer: it's
more or less a prose translation with a few poetic features.)
Unfortunately, I broke the cardinal rule of translating:
translating from a translation. But alas! I have not
yet learnt Classical Chinese, so my translation will have
to stand as is until that time. I'd be interested to see
what other people did with the same poem, and questions
and critiques would be welcome.
Drinking Alone Under the Moon
A jug of wine amidst the flowers:
drinking alone, with no friend near.
Raising my cup, I beckon the bright moon;
My shadow included, we're a party of three.
Although the moon's unused to drinking,
And the shadow only apes my every move,
For the moment I'll just take them as they are,
Enjoying spring when it is here.
Reeling shadow, swaying moon,
Attend my dance and song.
Still sober, we rejoice together;
Drunk, each takes his leave.
To seal forever such a friendship,
Let's rendezvous beyond the Milky Way.
Uxeikû lâr nasegwanti seiweristi
Teteþusû ouwu lumáxekû iphèix:
Tsheofâkû yor pacâusuo seiweristi.
Âr xoþagwasti, lauyîxei râphiswandi
sûmaiswâstâs naiorwa, hwaya eo myûnâtlùl.
Foi, uxei eoi seiweusû othâmmintîs,
hai naiorw' aphès pentâ k'eahusyossi,
swongan siw' ûl ainkoswaltîs,
hai Euwes hwo polwamiltîs.
ebaxuo lurekawoi azhèrismi.
Eioxerîmtâs, ûtþix phixaiorîmtâs;
ti âmearswa siw' ûl ûhye,
uwenalga Ámblakûrnû er.
Teteþusû  ouwu lumáxekû  iphèix:
PL.flower.DAT amidst wine.DUR jug
Tsheofâkû yor pacâusuo seiweristi.
friend.DUR without lonliness.DAT drink-alcohol.INTR.1SgProgRe.S
Âr xoþagwasti, lauyîxei  râphiswandi
cup raise.REL.1SgProgRe.S bright-moon call-forth.TR.1SgPfRe.S
sûmaiswâstâs  naiorwa , hwaya eo myûnâtlùl .
include.TR.1SgProgIr.C shadow.1Sg 1PlEx COP threesome
Foi , uxei eoi  seiweusû othâmmintîs ,
true moon 3SgO drinking.DAT not-accustom.MID.3SgPfRe.C
hai naiorw'  aphès pentâ k'eahusyossi,
and shadow.1Sg 1SgO in-all-ways imitate.TR.3SgProgRe.S
swongan siw' ûl  ainkoswaltîs ,
now this like accept.TR.1SgProsRe.C
hai Euwes  hwo polwamiltîs.
and spring 1SgDat enjoy.MID.1SgProsRe.C
ebaxuo lurekawoi azhèrismi .
song.DAT dance.DAT.and wait-upon.INTR.3PlProgRe.S
Eioxerîmtan , ûtþix phixaiorîmtan;
be-sober.INTR.3PlProgIr.Q together rejoice.3PlProgIr.Q
râk'urintmâs, thînòrintmâs. 
ti âmearswa  siw' ûl ûhye,
so-that seal.TR this like friendship
uwenalga  Ámblakûrnû  er.
meet-up.1PLImp milk-ribbon beyond
 In poetry, and sometimes in prose, the dative
case ending, normally -uo, can alternate with the
more archaic -û depending on whether the following
word begins with a vowel.
 The so-called "partitive" durative case.
 Because Phaleran has no class of adjectives,
and must nominalize or use unwieldy relative clauses,
it is not unusual for Phaleran poets to use compounds,
here "bright-moon", which undergoes regular contraction
rules of the roots _lauyî-_ and _uxei_. This is also
motivated by imitation of C'ali poetics, which can
make use of a distinct class of adjectives.
 lit. "were I to include", in the irrealis mode.
 _naior_, "shadow", belongs to the class of
inherently possessed nouns, and so must receive a
possessor. cf. _âr_, which takes no such possession.
 From C'ali _næt'elúl_, "group, company", and
Phaleran _myû_ "three". In its use in Phaleran,
the initial n- has been lost due to reassociation
(like English napron > apron) but is preserved in
forms like this one where it serves to prevent hiatus.
 Not a conjunction, but an adverb: "although,
 Proximative pronoun used, since the moon
is more topical than other nouns previously mentioned.
 The idiom _eoi othâmmi_ "to unaccustom onself" can
be used in a passive sense when no agent is obviously
acting upon the patient.
 short vowels can optionally be elided in
every day speech when to do so would avoid hiatus.
 From the demonstrative _siwo_ "this" and _gan_
"now" (< C'ali _gën_ "here"). _ûl_ "like"
alternates with _û_ depending on whether the
following word begins with a consonant.
 The cognitive evidentiality suffix here can
imply something like "I suppose": "I suppose I
will accept them as they are". In general, it
implies a kind of hesitancy over the claim, but
one is less removed from the claim than the
 Not early in the year, but the beginning of
the growing season.
 _azhèri_ /a'Seri/ "to wait upon" (< dial. azyeari_
"to serve") does not have the class connotations that
standard Phaleran _ûgethari_ (+dat.) "to attend, wait
 The use of irrealis in both clauses closely
connects the two without use of a formal conjunction.
Note also the change to quotative evidentiality (in -(e)n):
this phrase would strike the Phaleran ear with the
ring of a proverb, and so it must be marked as having
been "hearsay" knowledge.
 The shift to the perfect aspect is no accident:
the sense is "at that point that we realize we've
become drunk, that's when we suppose we take our leave."
 The infinitival purpose clause: lit. "that to
 The prospective imperative.
 A calque of "Milk-colored ribbon" which the
Phalerans have adopted from the C'ali. More common
is _K'urnuo eufa_ "K'urnu's belt".
be alone naseri
drink alcoholic substance seiweari, seiweri
jug, pitcher ipheix
amidst ouwu (+dat.)
be alone pacâri
friend, companion tsheofa
raise, lift up xoþaswa
beckon, call forth râphiswa
be bright lauyîri
party, group âtlùl
be unaccustomed, unused eoi othâmmi (to, +dat.)
in all ways pentâ
for the moment, at this point swongan
be here tâxari
walk unsteadily iwaiori
wait upon, attend âzhèri
be sober eioxeri
become intoxicated by alcohol râk'uri
take leave, part thînóri
bind, seal âmearswa
rendezvous, meet up again uwenari
Milky Way Âmblakûrnu
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