Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Whoever has Cold Mountain's poems
is better off than those with sutras.
Write them up on your screen
and read them from time to time.

Han-Shan, fl. 9th century (translated by Red Pine)

Do you have the poems of Han-Shan in your house?
They're better for you than sutra-reading!
Write them out and paste them on a screen
Where you can glance them over from time to time.

Han-Shan, fl. 9th century (translated by Burton Watson)

Two translations of the same poem. Wish I knew some Chinese to see how I feel about this. I like them both, but can't help feeling that reading things in translation is, well, secondhand. One always has the feeling that possibly something is amiss. I experienced this when reading "The Magic Mountain". I'd read the H.T. Lowe-Porter translation several times, but wanted to read the John E. Woods translation, which I found slightly disappointing. Was it the translation or my familiarity with the earlier version? Which is "closer" to the original?

and to complicate it further:

Poems of Han-Shan?
Better than the sutras.
Post them on your screen
and remind yourself from time to time.

"Thomas Mann and Proust were lucky in their translators." Cocteau.

One more for the road:

In a tangle of cliffs, I chose a place -
Bird paths, but no trails for me.
What's beyond the yard?
White clouds clinging to vague rocks.
Now I've lived here - how many years -
Again and again, spring and winter pass.
Go tell families with silverware and cars
"What's the use of all that noise and money?"

Han-Shan, fl. 9th century (translated by Gary Snyder)

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