Brief bio sketch

Lloyd Haft (1946- ) was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin USA and lived as a boy in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Kansas. In 1968 he graduated from Harvard College and went to Leiden, The Netherlands for graduate study in Chinese (M. A. 1973, Ph. D. 1981). From 1973 to 2004 he taught Chinese language and literature, mostly poetry, at Leiden. His sinological publications include Pien Chih-lin: A Study in Modern Chinese Poetry (1983/2011; published in Chinese translation as 发现卞之琳: 一位西方学者的探索之旅 in 2010) and Zhou Mengdie’s Poetry of Consciousness (2006). His most recent book, a liberal modern Dutch reading of Laozi's Daode jing, was published as Lau-tze's vele wegen by Synthese in September 2017.



He has translated extensively into English from the Dutch of Herman Gorter and Willem Hussem, and from the Chinese of various poets including Lo Fu, Yang Lingye, Bian Zhilin and Zhou Mengdie.



Since the 1980s he has also been active as a poet writing in Dutch and English. He was awarded the Jan Campert Prize for his 1993 bilingual volume Atlantis and the Ida Gerhardt Prize for his 2003 Dutch free-verse readings of the Psalms (republished by Uitgeverij Vesuvius in 2011). His newer poems are published (some republished) on this blog.



After early retirement in 2004, for a number of years Lloyd Haft spent much of his time in Taiwan with his wife Katie Su. In addition to writing and translating, his interests include Song-dynasty philosophy and taiji quan. He sings in the choir of a Roman Catholic church of the Eastern Rite in The Hague.



Friday, June 13, 2014

Sonnets by Zhu Xiang 朱湘十四行詩選譯

(Scraps from a Sinological Scrapbook 漢齋閒情異誌, fragment 25)


Sonnets by Zhu Xiang 朱湘十四行詩選譯
translated by Lloyd Haft

Zhu Xiang 朱湘 (1904-1933) was one of the great pioneers of modern Chinese poetry. In the years after World War I, Chinese poets were struggling to find ways of writing a new poetry that would go beyond the Classical Chinese tradition and do justice to modern developments in both language and thought. It was not easy for them to get an audience for their experiments. The prestige of Classical Chinese poetry, and its prominent social role in a Confucianist culture which exalted the written word in time-honored forms, made Western-style verse seem at first more like an amusement than a legitimate literary form.
        Among a small circle of young enthusiasts, however, Zhu Xiang had admirers. Widely read in both traditional and modern literature, he published his first book of verse in 1925. It might have seemed that he was on his way to a bright literary and academic career. His sensitive and disharmonious character, however, led him to break with one promising environment after another. Originally associated with Xu Zhimo 徐志摩 (1897-1931) as one of the ‘Crescent Moon’ group of poets, he eventually fell out with Xu and published vituperative attacks on him, calling him a ‘fake poet’ who wrote ‘banal’ and ‘nauseating’ verse. He tried going to America for study, but at both Lawrence University and the University of Chicago, he soon found reasons to quit school in protest. Returning to China to become a department head at Anhui University, he soon quit his job in anger. His marriage – ironically, a supremely traditional match which his parents had arranged for him even before he was born – proved disastrous, and at the age of 29, unable to solve the personal and financial problems that dogged him, he committed suicide.[1]
        Zhu Xiang’s strong interest in Western poetic forms is reflected, among other things, in his metrical translations of Shelley’s verse. His posthumously published collection The Stone Gate (石門集) includes 71 original poems in the sonnet form, making him the most productive Chinese sonnetteer of the first half of the twentieth century. Some of the 'sonnets,' like English Sonnet 6, deviate from the normal 14-line form in a way that is reminiscent of the 'curtal sonnets' of Gerard Manley Hopkins. The typography of the originals is rather strange: each sonnet appears as two blocks of seven vertically printed lines without stanza divisions, one block above the other. Symmetrical and neat though this arrangement was, it obscured the precision and intricacy of the stanza structures and rhyme schemes which Zhu Xiang had so carefully observed.[2] In the Chinese versions of the sonnets I have translated below, I have rearranged the typography so as to read horizontally and from left to right. I have done my best to edit the pronunciation, which is not always clearly legible in the original.


English Sonnet 6

If there had been no quake, there would remain
no precious ruins, records of Pompeii.
Columbus was a pirate: greed for gain
that gave us a bigger map, where more land lay.

The same Bible held millennia civilized
they almost murdered Galileo by.
Science fermented: hell grew authorized.
Saturn seen, disasters drop from the sky.

Hard to discern the cycle of man’s lot...
Growth from wreck, evil in good begot.

沒有地震,那滂佩伊故墟
便無從留下珍貴的文獻。
科倫布是海盜;他的貪慾
卻拏新版圖加上了地面。
「聖經」 撐起有千年的文化,
幾幾乎拿蓋里留給殺害—
科學釀成了地獄的批發,
都是土星見了,降下天災。
人事的循環太難於捉摸……
建設來自破壞,善產生惡。


English Sonnet 16

A single sickle moon bringing a couple of stars.
Cool. Unbound. The marketplace, on the night set:
a dog barks in the distance. Through the street’s heart, cars
rush but rarely; dimmed is care, quiet is fret.

Suddenly the breast is awash, an ancient longing swells.
And all around, an ancient scene, seeming sight
of wilds, frogs, willows, elms where the tiller dwells
and rivers unfold from foothills, out of the dew of night.

The mountain spirit whispers: there’s a stream about.
As if forever. Pine, pagoda. Cypress, shrine:
they welcome not the traveler, nor cast him out.
If he has come, let him sit on the stone incline

and gaze on the always far and ancient – I’m imagining,
facing a couple of stars and a single sickle shining.

只是一鐮刀的月亮,帶兩顆星,
清涼,灑脫,在市廛定下來的夜;
遠方有犬吠,車輛奔走過街心,
寥落的;擾攘與喧囂已經安歇。
古老的情思驀然潮起在胸頭,
以及古老的意境。仿佛有群蛙
搏動在原野內,榆柳,田舍河流
展開在夜露之中,在山麓之下。
山靈的喉舌微語著,一條山溪。
仿佛是終古的,松柏,寶塔,寺廟;
它們並不迎迓遊客,也不嫌棄,
要是他來了,坐在石磴上,閑眺。
總是這麼古老,悠遠的,我幻想,
對了兩顆星,與一鐮刀的月亮。


Italian Sonnet 2

I’d lay aside all wide of sky or sea
if you’d leave me but one small tenement,
the way a seed in the fruit’s core is pent,
to hide me from the outer world’s cruelty

and the true road of living let me see:
emerge reborn as pine cone’s subtle scent,
almond smooth, walnut rich but prudent.
Some go feeding the common gluttony,

some in spring sun overfly the peaks
and only then set roots and petal, slow,
after a hundred years reach out, clawed

(what their deep cry by day and night bespeaks)
to clench green, that ripened it not go:
and harden with that, while the four winds maraud.

我情願拿海闊天空扔掉。
只要你肯給我一間小房—
像仁子蹲在果核的中央,
讓我來躲避外界的強暴;
讓我來領悟這生之大道,
脫胎換骨,變成松子清香。
核桃內豐外嗇杏仁潤涼……
有的去給世人越吃越要;
有的,趁陽春飛越過山嶺
那時候,生根著葉起來,慢,
很慢的……百年後他伸手爪
[ 他高呼,低喚在黑夜,白天 ]
要抓住那青,成年不變換,
與那硬,任風在四邊騷擾。


Italian Sonnet 16

In curious dream’s arena I caught sight,
in body’s shell evolved, of two of me:
the left a singing, innocent beauty,
the right a sword dancer, robed in light.

Radiance on all sides guarded them with white
nor granted a single sorrow-splash entry,
yet sorrow added watering waves, musically,
to measure grander, mood more rich and right.

Of this frame’s remnants I’ll not deign to reck
– distinguish as ye may the ‘life,’ the ‘wreck’ –
for the eternal mates you’ve never found the word:

separate east and west their journeys seem.
Only in sky will song accord, in dream,
with the rise and falling of the shadow sword.

在一場奇特的夢裏,我瞧見
軀殼中化出來了一雙自我—
美麗,天真,左邊的她正唱歌;
右邊的,光芒繞體,他舞寶劍。
那護身的白光關照到四面,
不容煩惱灑的水絲毫透過,
同時,煩惱澆上音樂的波,
那情調更豐富,節律更莊嚴。
這一架的殘剩我毫不關懷;
儘由你們去分了,「人生,」「破敗!
你們抓不住那永恆的一雙……
雖說他們的途徑各自東西,
唯有在天空上,唯有在夢裏,
歌聲才叫得應那劍影低昂。


Italian Sonnet 22

Proffering its sixty rings of jade, the soul
pays its respects at the shrine of life, where true
and false – the variously carved blossoms – through
circling months and years are threaded whole.

The modest temple plays its earnest role:
all beings’ offerings are accepted, yet there do
remain but precious few, each strung onto
a necklace, or hung from a pavilion pole.

More than the sands in the Ganges, for all time
jade rings will be (be praised!), in fragrance,
in splendor and peace, in the reverence of descendants:

and even the souls be decked in lanterns green
while they gaze on old toils borne, old dreams seen –
till the whole body sinks in sweat and grime.

捧著六十塊圓璧,魂靈呈獻
有人生的龕上:有真也有假;
有精也有粗,那雕鏤成的花
盤繞過小周的月,大周的年。
並非無量大的,這廟宇莊嚴……
衆生的敬奉雖是全部收下,
存留的卻並不多;它們懸掛
在楹柱上,或是佩戴在胸前。
不作恆河的沙,長此有圓璧
〔這是多麼可欽!〕陪侍著芬芳,
光采,恬靜;長此供後人瞻仰;
魂魄也能燃著碧色的燈籠,
常來眺望往昔的辛勤,幻夢,
一直到全身頹圮入了汗泥。


Italian Sonnet 34

He shouldn’t have been born, the writer of verse.
I’ve duly undergone my share of shame,
swallowed the bitters of the human game –
compared to certain others, I’m the worse:

the Muse’s retinue. I’m not averse
to falling short of an Average Man’s name.
Whatever this heaven-given tongue exclaim,
it’s never of my own. The words are Hers.

Far be it from me to hope for more
as long as why one here endures this span
– that it was all for Her – the Muse infers.

Nor shall I be disturbed if man curse,
call me a beggar. For a goddess one can
never force; one only can implore.

作詩的原不該生下,
應分的我受盡羞辱,
又吃世間各種的苦—
比起有些人來,還差。
詩神的侍從,我不怕
遠離了作一個凡夫;
這天賜的舌頭說出,
並非我的,是她的話。
旁的我並不敢希望,
只要這番堅忍,詩神
能以知道,是爲了她。
我也不理會人唾罵
爲一個乞丐:向神靈
只好去求,不能勉強。


Italian Sonnet 52: “Homer”

Blind prophet! You who saw the light
in darkness – inseparable: two and one;
seeing the two-faced god: and seeing the prone
worshippers’ toning voice and shadowed sight

born of a single sound, a sound so slight.
You sang the riddle revealed by the god of the sun,
told of the expedition’s exultation
and how bitter returning wisdom’s plight,

told how life begins in a beautiful grapple –
and another kind of beauty when it’s done.
Between are storms and slaughters, mire and rest.

So it is, at the honored gods’ behest.
And when it’s finished?...Blind man, I mean their fun.
You’ve no idea. That’s another apple.

啊,盲目的先知者,看見光明
在黑暗之中,分不開,二而一;
又看見那一身兩面的神祇,
與頂禮膜拜者的聲調,形影。
一個聲音生的,便只是聲音—
你歌唱出日神所宣示的謎:
說遠征的「熱烈」是如何快意。
「智慧」的歸家又是多麼艱辛;
說人生開始於美麗的攘奪,
說人生終結在另一種美麗,
中間是風浪,屠宰,溷濁,鬆弛……..
如此,遵照了神祇們的意旨,
它完了……至於他們的那遊戲,
盲人,你並不知道怎樣結果。




[1] See the chapter on Zhu Xiang in my The Chinese Sonnet: Meanings of a Form, published in Leiden by the Research School of Asian, African, and American Studies, 2000.
[2] The edition I have used was published in Shanghai by the Commercial Press in 1935. My translations, used here with permission, have appeared earlier in The Chinese Sonnet: Meanings of a Form.