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River Snow translation

In 2009 an elderly Chinese gentleman gave me a small piece of jade on which had been engraved the poem 江雪Jiāng Xuě by 柳宗元Liǔ Zōngyuán (773-819), which was written in the strict 五言绝句wǔyán juéjù style. Below is my analysis and a translation that follows the original's rhyme and rhythm, although I had to take the liberty of doubling each zi to an iamb and making minor alterations so it fits. 为了押韵我不得不调整隐喻一点,比如我说路是由于仇敌(雪)放弃了存在,但场景一样。本页提供两个版本: 一面是翻译,一面是分析原诗字面意思(请别以为这个分析是翻译)

Qiānthousand / many shānmountain niǎobird fēifly juécut off / used up

Wànmyriad / many jìngpath / way rénperson zōngfollow / track mièextinguish / go out

alone zhōuboat suōstraw raincoat straw hat wēngold man

alone diàoto fish háncold jiāng(big) river xuěsnow

Where thousand mountain flyers dare not know

And myriad travelled roads accede their foe

In solice, a seasoned straw-capp'd boater floats

and angles 'mid the frigid River's snow.

Some commentators have suggested the poet was commiserating his own demotion in the Tang court, but not all are in agreement about this. He might simply have meant to describe a winter scene. (Personally I don't like over-interpreting poetry.)

My father made a musical setting of a blank-verse version of the words in English for soprano voice and flute, which I typeset in Lilypond:
(sorry, an SVG-capable browser is required to view this score; please wait for it to go live on Mutopia instead)

He said if a soprano voice is not available then it should also work if sung an octave lower by a tenor.


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