Refreshing Culture.

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  • Phil Hand

    January 18, 2021 at 2:44 pm

    Yep, alliteration definitely works… In fact, you’re right, I think I’ve led myself down the Sinologists’ blind alley again. Because the point isn’t to try to reproduce the form of the Chinese poem, or even to transmute it in some way. The urge to do that comes from the scholar’s natural interest in Chinese forms. But a translator should be translating the poetic expression in Chinese into a poetic expression in English (or whatever language), using the resources available in English…

    I think the same must go for rhyme, as well. Rhyme is a resource that exists in both Classical Chinese and English; but that’s not a reason to think it should be used the same way in the two languages. In short poems I manage to remember that, and I generally choose a rhymescheme that works for the English poem. But in longer poems I quite often borrow the rhymescheme from the source text. For example, in Du Fu’s Army Carts and Autumn Gale Blows Thatch off my Roof, he uses rhyme to define different sections of the poem. He keeps a single rhyme for a whole section of six or eight lines, and when he changes the rhyme, the mood or subject changes, too. It’s quite convenient to follow his lead, but I wonder if I should be looking for other options to use.

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