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Copyright 10 1987 by Eliot Weinberger
and Octavio Paz.
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An earlier version of Weinberger's essay first
appeared 10 Zero; Contemporary Buddhist Thought,
edited by Eric Lerner. Paz's original essay, plus a
Spanish translatron of Weinberger's essay by
Ulalumc Gonzalez de Leon, first appeared in Vueltn
(Mexiro City). The translation of Paz's essay is by
Elrot Weinberger. See page 55 for Permissions.
Calligraphy on pages ii and 2 by Michael Crook
Libr;1ry of Congress
Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Weinberger, Ehot
Nineteen ways of looking at Wang Wei,
1. Wang, Wei, 701 761 Lu ch'ai. 2. Wang Wei 701-
761- Translahons. l. Wang, Wei, 701-761. Lu ch'ai.
Polyglot 1985. II Paz, Octavia, 1914. Lil. Title
PL2676.A683W4 1987 895.1'13
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Poetry is that which is worth translating.
For example, this four-line poem, 1200 years old: a
mountain, a forest, the setting sun illuminating a
patch of moss. It is a scrap of literary Chinese, no
longer spoken as its writer spoke it. It is a thing, forev-
er itself, inseparable from its language.
And yet something about it has caused it to lead a
nomadic life: insinuating itself in the minds of readers,
demanding understanding (but on the reader's own
terms), provoking thought, sometimes compel ling
writing in other languages. Great poetry lives in a
state of perpetual transformation, perpetual transla-
tion: the poem dies when it has no place to go.
The transformations that take shape in print, that
take the formal name of "translation," become their
own beings, set out on their own wanderings. Some
live long, and some don't. What kind of creatures are
they? What happens when a poem, once Chinese and
still Chinese, becomes a piece of English, Spanish,
French poetry?
1
(text)
t
'!£ w ;f fL )'-
1!!- grJ )"-- * ' ;
~ J: A ~ ; f t .
In 'J9. _i-. * t ..
-15(_ ~ ' ' Fl t2 ...-r:::-. .
2
The poem is by Wang Wei (c. 700-761), known in his lifetime
as a wealthy Buddhist painter and calligrapher, and to later
generations as a master poet in an age of masters, the Tang
Dynasty. The quatrain is from a series of twenty poems on
various sights near the Wang (no relation) River. The poems
were written as part of a massive horizontal landscape scroiJ,
a genre he invented. The painting was copied (translated) for
centuries. The original is lost, and the earliest surviving copy
comes from the 17th century: Wang's landscape after 900 years
of transformation.
In classical Chinese, each character (ideogram) represents
a word of a single syllable. Few of the characters are, as is
commonly thought, entirely representational. But some of the
basic vocabulary is indeed pictographic, and with those few
hundred characters one can play the game of pretending to
read Chinese.
Reading the poem left to right, top to bottom, the second
character in line 1 is apparently a mountni11; the last character
in the same line a person-both are stylizations that evolved
from more literal representations. Character 4 in line 1 was a
favorite of Ezra Pound's: what he interpreted as an eye on legs;
that is, the eye in motion, to see. Character 5 in line 3 is two
trees, forest. Spatial relationships are concretely portrayed in
character 3 of line 3, to enter, and character 5 of line 4, al10zte
or on (top ofJ.
More typical of Chinese is character 2 of line 4, to shine,
which contains an image of the sun in the upper left and of
fire at the bottom, as well as a purely phonetic clement key
to the word's pronunciation-in the upper right. Most of the
other characters have no pictorial content useful for decipher-
ment.
J
2
( transliteration)
' ' LUZHAI
' ' '
Kong shan bu jian ren
' ' '
Dan wen ren yu xiang
- ... - \ - I
Fan jing (ying) rushen lin
\ \ I \
Fu zhao qing tai shang
4
The transliteration is from modern Chinese, using the cur-
rent, quirky pinyin system. Obvious, perhaps, to the Ruma-
nians who helped develop it, but not to English speakers, is
that the zh is a j sound, the x a heavily aspirated s, and the q
a hard ch. The a is the ah of father.
Though the characters have remained the same, their pro-
nunciation has changed considerably since the Tang Dynasty.
In the 1920's the philologist Bernhard Karlgren attempted to
recreate Tang speech; a transliteration of this poem, using Karl-
gren's system may be found in Hugh M. Stimson's 55 Tang
Poems (Yale, 1976). Unfortunately, the transliteration is written
in its own forbidding language, with upside-down letters, let-
ters floating above the words, and a leveled forest of diacritical
marks.
Chinese has the least number of sounds of any major lan-
guage. In modern Chinese a monosyllable is pronounced in
one of four tones, but any given sound in any given tone has
scores of possible meanings. Thus a Chinese monosyllabic word
(and often the written character) is comprehensible only in the
context of the phrase: a linguistic basis, perhaps, for Chinese
philosophy, which was always based on relation rather than
substance.
For poetry, this means that rhyme is inevitable, and Wes tern
"meter" impossible. Chinese prosody is largely concerned with
the number of characters per line and the arrangement of
tones- both of which are untranslatable. But translators tend
to rush in where wise men never tread, and often may be seen
attempting to nurture Chinese rhyme patterns in the hostile
environment of a Western language.
5
Empty
But
To return
To return
Again
3
(character-by-character
translation)
mountain(l>) (negative) to see
hill(s)
to hear person words
people conversation
bright( ness) to enter deep
shadow(s)•
to shine green moss
to reflect blue lichen
black
person
people
sound
to echo
forest
above
on (top of)
top
• According to Fran<;OIS Cheng, retrmwr)l shadows is a trope meaning rays of
surrsel.
6
..
I have presented only those definitions that arc possible for
this text. There are others.
A single character may be noun, verb, and adjective. It may
even have contradictory readings: character 2 of line 3 is either
jing (brightness) or ying (shadow). Again, context is all. Of
particular difficulty to the Western translator is the absence of
tense in Chinese verbs: in the poem, what is happening has
happened and will happen. Similarly, nouns have no number:
rose is a rose is all roses.
Contrary to the evidence of most translations, the first-
person singular rarely appears in Chinese poetry. By elimi-
nating the controlling individual mind of the poet, the
experience becomes both universal and immediate to the reader.
The title of the poem, Lu zhai, is a place-name, something
like Deer Grove, which I take from a map of Illinois. It probably
alludes to the Deer Park in Sarnath, where the Gautama Bud-
dha preached his first sermon.
The first two lines are fairly straightforward. The second
couplet has, as we shall see, quite a few possible readings, all
of them equally "correct."
7
4
The Form of the Deer
So lone seem the hills; there is no one in sight there.
But whence is the echo of voices I hear?
The rays of the sunset pierce slanting the forest,
And in their reflection green mosses appear.
- W.j.B. Fletcher, 1919
8
The translation is typical of those written before the gene
1
recognition of Ezra Pound's Cathay, first published in 191
Pound's small book, containing some of the most beautif
poems in the English language, was based on a notebook
literal Chinese translations prepared by the orientalist Erm
FenoUosa and a japanese informant. The "accuracy" of Pounc
versions remains a sore point: pedants still snort at the erro1
but Wai-lim Yip has demonstrated that Pound, who at the tin
knew no Chinese, intuitively corrected mistakes in the Fen<
losa manuscript. Regardless of its scholarly worth, Cath,
marked, in T.S. Eliot's words, "the invention of Chinese poet
in our time." Rather than stuffing the original into the cors
of traditional verse forms, as Fletcher and many others h<
done, Pound created a new poetry in English drawn from wh
was unique to the Chinese.
"Every force," said Mother Ann Lee of the Shakers, "evolv·
a form." Pound's genius was the discovery of the living mattE
the force, of the Chinese poem-what he called the "nev
that stays news" through the centuries. This living matter fun
tions somewhat like DNA, spinning out individual translatiot
which are relatives, not clones, of the original. The relationsh·
between original and translation is parent-child. And there ar
inescapably, some translations that are overly attached to the
originals, and others that are constantly rebelling.
Fletcher, like all early (and many later) translators, feels t
must explain and "improve" the original poem. Where Wang
sunlight entas the forest, Fletcher's rays pierce slanting; whe1
Wang states simply that voices are heard, Fletcher invents
first-person narrator who asks where the sounds are comin
from. (And if the hills are there, where is the narrator?)
in line 4, ambiguity has been translated into confusio•
Fletcher's line has no meaning. (What reflection where?) C
perhaps the line has a lovely and unlikely Platonic subtlety:
their refers to the mosses, then what appears is the reflectio
of moss itself.
Fletcher explains his curious (and equally Platonic) title wit
a note that zlzai means "the place where the deer sleeps, il
'form'."
9
5
Deer-Park Hermitage
There seems to' be no one on the empty mountain ...
And yet I think I hear a voice,
Where sunlight, entering a grove,
Shines back to me from the green moss.
- Witter Bynner & Kiang Kang-hu, 1929
10
Witter Bynner was a primary purveyor of Chinoiserie trans-
lation in English in the 1920's-though not as extreme an
exoticist as his Imagist counterparts, Amy Lowell and Florence
Ayscough. His Chinese poet does however write from the
ethereal mists of tentative half-perception: there seems to be, and
yet I think I hear. (Wang, however, quite plainly sees no one
and hears someone.)
Where Wang is specific, Bynner's Wang seems to be watch-
ing the world through a haze of opium reflected in a hundred
thimbles of wine. It is a world where no statement can be
made without a pregnant, sensitive, world-weary ellipsis. The
I even hears a voice where the sunlight shines back to him
from the moss. Such lack of sense was traditionally explained
by reference to the mystical, inscrutable East.
11
6
The Deer Park
An empty hill, and no one in sight
But I hear the echo of voices.
The slanting sun at evening penetrates the deep woods
And shines reflected on the blue lichens.
- Soame Jenyns, 1944
12
Dull, but fairl y direct, Jenyns' only additions are the in-
evitable I and the explanatory slanting sun at et!enmg. lie is the
only translator to prefer lichen to moss, though in plural form
the word is particularly ugly.
In the fourth line zhao becomes both sltines reflected, rather
than one or the other, but he is still in the "reflected" trap:
from what is the sun reflected?
Chinese poetry was based on the precise observation of the
physical world. Jenyns and other translators come from a tra-
dition where the notion of verifying a poetic image would be
silly, where the word "poeti c" itself is synonymous with
"dreamy."
He might have squeaked by had he written And sltines re-
flected by the blue lie/tens-accurate to nature, if not to Wang.
But Jenyns-at the time Assistant Keeper of the Department
of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum, scribbling through
the Blitz-was so far removed from the poem's experi ence
that he found it necessary to add the following footnote to line
2: "The woods are so thick that woodcutters and herdsmen
are hidden."
13
7
La Foret
Dans Ia montagne tout est solitaire,
On entend de bien loin l'echo des voix humaines,
Le soleil qui penetrc au fond de Ia fortH
Reflete son eclat sur Ia mousse vert.
-G. Margoulies, 1948
(The forest. On the mountain everything is solitary,/ One hears
from far off the echo of human voices,/ The sun that penetrates
to the depths of the forest I Reflects its ray on the green moss.)
14
..
Margoulies prefers to generalize Wang's specifics: Deer Grave
becomes, simply, The Forest; nobody in sight becomes the pon-
derous malaise of everything is sclitary. In the second line he
poeticizes the voices by having them come from far off. The
French indefinite pronoun happily excludes the need for a
narrator.
8
Deer Forest Hermitage
Through the deep wood, the slanting sunlight
Casts motley patterns on the jade- green mosses.
No glimpse of man in this lonely mountain,
Yet faint voices drift on the air.
-Chang Yin-nan & Lewis C. Walmsley, 1958
t6
Chang and Walmsley published the first book-length trans-
lation of Wang Wei in English, but unfortunately their work
bore little resemblance to the original.
In this poem, the couplets are reversed for no reason. The
voices are faint and drift on the air. The mountain is lonely (surely
a Western conceit, that empty = lonely!) but it's a decorator's
delight: the moss is as green as jade and the sunlight casts
motley patterns.
It is a classic example of the translator attempting to "im-
prove" the original. Such cases are not uncommon, and are
the product of a translator's unspoken contempt for the foreign
poet. It never occurs to Chang and Walmsley that Wang could
have written the equivalent of casts motley patterns 011 the jade-
green mosses had he wanted to. He didn't.
In its way a spiritual exercise, translation is dependent on
the dissolution of the translator's ego: an absolute humility
toward the text. A bad translation is the insistent voice of the
translator-that is, when one sees no poet and hears only the
translator speaking.
17
9
The Deer Enclosure
,
On the lonely mountain
I meet no one,
1 hear only the echo
of human voices.
At an angle the sun's rays
enter the depths of the wood,
And shine
upon the green moss.
-C.J. Chen & Michael Bullock, 1960
Chen and Bullock make some familiar "improvements": the
first-person narrator, the lonely mountain, the sun at an angle.
Wang's see becomes meet in their second line. Their main in-
novation is the creation of eight lines for Wang's four-ages-
ture that apparently caught them short when they had to break
the last line into two.
I I
10
On the empty mountains no one can be seen,
But human voices are heard to resound.
The reflected sunlight pierces the deep forest
And falls again upon the mossy ground.
- James J.Y. Liu, 1962
20
h
Liu's book, The Art of Chinese Poetry, applied the techniques
of 1940's New Criticism to the interpretation of Chinese poetry.
The New Critics preached strict attention to sense (special
emphasis on learned irony) and the general neglect of music.
Thus Liu's version is more accurate than most, but the first
two lines heave, the third gasps, and the fourth falls with a
thud on the mossy ground.
In the first line, by changing the expected is to can be, Liu
has transformed Wang's specifics into a general and not terribly
bright remark. Human voices, a steal from Eliot, is redundant;
and the 19th century resound is only there to rhyme with ground.
A ray of sunlight might pierce the deep forest, but reflected
sunlight wouldn't, and absent from Liu's third line is the sense
that it is late afternoon, that the sunlight is returning to the
forest. In the fourth line, green has been subtracted, ground
added.
In Liu's favor, however, are the absence of the "I" and the
usual explanations.
21
11
Deep in the Mountain
Wilderness
Deep in the mountain wilderness
Where nobody ever comes
OnJy once in a great while
Something like the sound of a far off voice.
The low rays of the sun
Slip through the dark forest,
And gleam again on the shadowy moss.
- Kenneth Rexroth, 1970
22
...
The taxonomy of Chinese translators is fairly simple. There
are the scholars: most are incapable of writing poetry, but a
few can (among them: Burton Watson, A.C. Graham, Arthur
Waley, Jonathan Chaves) . And there are the poets: most know
no Chinese, a few know some. Kenneth Rexroth belonged to
this last category (along with Gary Snyder and the later
Pound)-although this particular example is perhaps more
"imitation" than translation.
Rexroth ignores what he presumably dislikes, or feels can-
not be translated, in the original. The title is eliminated, and
the philosophical empty mountain becomes the empirical moun-
tain wilderness. Certain words and phrases are his own inven-
tion. One of them, where nobody ever comes leads him into a
trap: he must modify the sound of a far off voice with something
like, and it makes a rather clutzy fourth line. But this is clearly
the first poem of the group, able to stand by itself. It is the
closest to the spirit, if not the letter, of the original: the poem
Wang might have written had he been born a 20th century
American.
Rexroth's great skill is apparent in three tiny gestures. In
line 2, by using comes rather than the more obvious goes he
has created an implicit narrator-observer (i.e., "comes here
where I am") without using the first person. Second, he takes
an utterly ordinary phrase, once in a great while, and lets us
hear it, for the first time, as something lovely and onomato-
poeic. And third, Rexroth's slip for Wang's enter is perhaps too
sensual- reminiscent of Sanskrit forest trysts-but it is irre-
sistible.
23
12
Deer Fence
Empty hills, no one in sight,
only the sound of someone talking;
late sunlight enters the deep wood,
shining over the green moss again.
-Burton Watson, 1971
24
Watson is a prolific and particularly fine translator of clas-
sical Chinese and Japanese poetry, history and philosophy; he
is comparable only to Arthur Waley in this century. He was
also the first scholar whose work displayed an affinity with
the modernist revolution in American poetry: absolute preci-
sion, concision, and the use of everyday speech.
[Curiously, while most of the French and American mod-
ernists lit joss sticks at the altars of their newfound Chinese
ancestors, the scholars of Chinese ignored, or were actively
hostile to modern poetry. Many still are. Chinese poets were,
however, excited by the doings in the West. Hu Shi's 1917
manifestoes, which launched the "Chinese Renaissance" in
literature by rej ecting classical language and themes in favor
of vernacular and "realism", were largely inspired by Ezra
Pound's 1913 Imagist manifestoes. Full circle: Pound thought
he found it in China, Hu Shi thought it came from the West.]
Watson here renders the first two characters of line 1 with
two words; no article, no explanation. His presentation of the
image is as direct as the Chinese. There are 24 Engl ish words
(six per line) for the Chinese 20, yet every word of the Chinese
has been translated without indulging, as others have done,
in a telegraphic minimal ism. In the translation of Chjnese po-
etry, as in everything, nothing is more difficult than simpJjcity.
More than arrangements of tones, rhymes, and number of
characters per line, Chinese poetry, like all ancient poetries, is
based on parallelism: the dual (yin-yang) nature of the universe.
Wang's first two lines are typical: see no people/ but hear people.
He even repeats a character. Watson retains Wang's parallelism
effortlessly enough (no one/someone) yet he is the first translator
to do so.
25
13
Deer Enclosure
Empty mountain: no man is seen,
But voices of men are heard.
Sun's reflection reaches into the woods
And shines upon the green moss.
- Wai-lim Yip, 1972
Yip is a critic who has written brilliantly on the importance
of Chinese poetics to 20th century American poetry. As a trans-
lator he is less successful, perhaps because English is appar-
ently his second language. (It is rarely possible, though many
try, to translate out of one's natural language.) Thus the
strangeness of no man is seen and the oddly anthropomorphic
reaches into.
Like Burton Watson, Yip follows Wang's repetition of person
in the first two Jines (though his persons are men) and presents
six English words per line for the Chinese five. But unlike
Watson and the other translators, Yip actually gives us less
than the original- leaving out deep and again.
In a later version of this translation, published in his an-
thology Ch111ese Poetry (University of California Press, 1976),
Yip clipped the first line to the almost pidgin Empty mountain:
no man.
27
14
Deer Park
Hills empty, no one to be seen
We hear only voices echoed-
With light coming back into the deep wood
The top of the green moss is lit again.
-G. w. Robinson, 1973
Robinson's translation, published by Penguin Books, is, un-
happily, the most widely available edition of Wang in English.
In this poem Robinson not only creates a narrator, he makes
it a group, as though it were a family outing. With that one
word, we, he effectively scuttles the mood of the poem.
Reading the last word of the poem as top, he offers an image
that makes little sense on the forest floor: one would have to
be smaU indeed to think of moss vertically.
For a jolt to the system, try reading this aloud.
15
En Ia Ermita del Parque de los Venados
No se ve gente en este monte.
S6lo se oyen, lejos, voces.
Por los ramajes Ia luz rompe.
Tendida entre Ia yerba brilla verde.
-Octavio Paz, 1974
. N eople are seen on this moun-
[ In the Deer Pn.rk Hermtlnge. oh p d I L" ht breaks through the
tain./ Only v o ~ e e s , far off, are ear . . Jg.
branches./ Spread among the grass •I shmes green.]
JO
For the second (1978) edition of Versiones y Dh,ersiones, his
selected translations, Paz wrote:
The translation of this poem is particularly difficult, for the
poem carries to an extreme the characteristics of Chinese po-
etry: universality, impersonality, absence of time, absence of
subject. In Wang Wei's poem, the solitude of the mountain is
so great that not even the poet himself is present. After a
number of attempts I wrote these four unrhymed lines: three
with nine syllables each and the last with eleven.
Months later, reading some Mahayana texts, I was surprised
by the frequency with which the Western paradise, domain of
the Amida Buddha, is mentioned. I remembered that Wang
Wei had been a fervent Buddhist: I consulted one of his bio-
graphies and discovered that his devotion for Am ida was such
that he had written a hymn in which he speaks of his desire
to be reborn in the Western Paradise-the place of the setting
sun ...
This is nature poetry, but a Buddhist nature poetry: does
not the quatrain reflect, even more than the naturalistic aes-
theticism traditional in this kind of composition, a spiritual
experience? Sometime later, Burton Watson, who knows my
love for Chinese poetry, sent me his Chinese Lyricism. There I
encountered a confirmation of my suspicion: for Wang Wei the
light of the setting sun had a very precise meaning. An allusion
to the Amida Buddha: at the end of the afternoon the adept
meditates and, like the moss in the forest, receives illumina-
tion. Poetry perfectly objective, impersonal, far from the mys-
ticism of a St. John of the Cross, but no less authentic or
profound than that of the Spanish poet. Transformation of man
and nature before the divine light, although in a sense inverse
to that of Western tradition. In place of the humanization of
the world that surrounds us, the Oriental spirit is impregnated
with the objectivity, passivity and impersonality of the trees,
grass and rocks, so that, impersonally, it receives the impartial
light of a revelation that is also impersonal. Without losing the
Jl
reality of the trees, rocks and earth, Wang Wei's mountain and
forest are emblems of the void. Imitating his reticence, I limited
myself to lightly changing the last two lines:
Nose ve gente en este monte.
S6lo se oyen, lejos, voces.
La luz poniente rompe entre las ramas.
En Ia yerba tendida brilla verde.
[No people are seen on this mountain./ Only voices, far oft,
are heard./ Western light breaks through the branches./ Spread
over the grass it shines green.]
Paz drops m ~ p t y from the first line; in the second,
like Margoulies and Rexroth, he makes the voices far off. His
third line, though not strictly literal, may be the most beautiful
of all the versions: replacing the abstract light enters the forest
with the concrete and dramatic light breaks through the branches-
the light almost becoming the sudden iUumination, satori, of
Zen Buddhism. In the fourth line, the moss has become grass,
no doubt because the Spanish word for moss, musgo, is un-
pleasantly squishy. (How mossy-soft and damp- is the En-
glish moss!)
What is missing from these lovely third and fourth lines is
the cyclical quality of the original. Wang begins both Hnes with
to return: taking a specific time of day and transforming it into
a moment, frozen in its recurrence, that becomes cosmic. Read-
ing the image as a metaphor for illumination, the ordinary
(sunset in the forest) represents the extraordinary (the enlight-
enment of the individual) which, in terms of the cosmos, is as
ordinary as sunlight illuminating a patch of moss.
An endless series of negations: The mountain seems empty
(without people) because no one's in sight. But people are
heard, so the mountain is not empty. But the mountain is empty
because it is an illusion. The light from the Western Paradise,
the light caUed shadow falls.
33
I
I
I
I
16
Li Ch'ai
In empty mountains no one can be seen.
But here might echoing voices cross.
Reflecting rays
entering the deep wood
Glitter again
on the dark green moss.
-William McNaughton, 1974
34
McNaughton oHers the Chinese place-name as a title, but
his transliteration is incorrect-something like Beer Park.
Line 1 has been turned into a general statement, almost a
parody of Eastern Wisdom: in an empty glass there is no liquid.
Line 2 places the action here for no reason and adds cross for
the rhyme scheme he has imposed on himself. (Not much
rhymes with moss; it's something of an albatross. But he might
have attempted an Elizabethan pastoral echoing voices toss or
perhaps a half-Augustan, half-Dada echoing voices sauce.)
Splitting the last couplet into four lines is apparently an
attempt at pictorial representation. The last line adds dark to
fill out the thumpety-thump.
35
17
Clos aux cerfs
Montagne deserte. Personne n'est en vue.
Seuls, les echos des voix resonnent, au loin.
Ombres retournent dans Ia foret profonde:
Dernier eclat de Ia mousse, vert.
-Fran<;ois Cheng, 1977
[Deer Enclosure. Deserted mountain. No one in sight./ Only,
the echoes of voices resound, far off./ Shadows return to the
deep forest:/ Last gleaming of the moss, green.]
Cheng writes:
[Wang) describes here a walk on the mountain, which is at the
same time a spiritual experience, an experience of the Void
and of communion with Nature. The first couplet should be
interpreted "On the empty mountain I meet no one; only some
echoes of voices of people walking come to me." But through
the suppression of the personal pronoun and of locative ele-
ments the poet identifies himself immediately with the "empty
mountain," which is therefore no longer merely a "comple-
ment of place"; similarly, in the third line he is the ray of the
setting sun that penetrates the forest. From the point of view
of content, the first two lines present the poet as still "not
seeing"; in his ears the echoes of human voices still resound.
The last two lines are centered in the theme of "vision": to see
the golden effect of the setting sun on the green moss. Seeing
here signifies illumination and deep communion with the es-
sence of things. Elsewhere the poet often omi ts the personal
pronoun to effect the description of actions in sequence where
human acts are related to movements in nature.
(tr. Donald Riggs & Jerome Seaton)
Cheng also presents a literal translation of the poem:
Montagne vide I ne percevoir personne
Seulement entendre I voix humaine n?sonner
Ombre-retournee I penetrer f o n ~ t profonde
Encore Juire I sur Ia mousse verte
It is curious to see how Cheng poeticizes and even Wes-
ternizes his literal version to create a finished translation. The
Buddhist montagne vide (empty mountain) becomes the Ro-
mantic montagne deserte (deserted mountain). Echos and au loin
(far off) are added to the second line. In the third, his literal
ombre-retournee (returned shadow-a trope he notes as mean-
37
ing "rays of sunset") has become a subject and verb, ombres
retournent (shadows return) which considerably alters the
meaning. Cheng's last line is quite peculiar: the literal Encore
luire sur Ia mousse lJerte (to shine again on the green moss)
becomes Dernier eclat de Ia mousse, vert (last gleaming of the
moss, green- the green referring to the gleaming, not the
moss). The line owes more to French Symbolists than to Tang
Buddhists.
Translations aside, Cheng's book is a luminous, original
study of Chinese poetry. In the English version, published in
1982, Jerome P. Seaton, working "after the interpretations of"
Cheng, offers a translation that seems to owe more to Gary
Snyder's 1978 poem (#19) than to Cheng:
DEER PARK
Empty mountain. None to be seen.
But hear, the echoing of voices.
Returning shadows enter deep, the grove.
Sun shines, again, on lichen's green.
39
18
The Deer Park
Not the shadow on a man on the deserted hill -
And yet one hears voices speaking;
Deep in the seclusion of the woods,
Stray shafts of the sun pick out the green moss.
- H.C. Chang, 1977
40
Chang translates 12 of Wang's 20 words, and makes up the
rest.
In line 1 the first on is probably a typographical error, but
in such surroundings, it's hard to tell. In any event, what's
that shadow doing (or more exactly, not doing) there? OnJy the
shadow knows.
Why are the shafts of sun stray? Why are they shafts at all?
And why do they pick out the moss? The verb is unavoidably
reminiscent of the consumption of winkles and crab.
In short, the poem is more Chang than Wang. (It is taken
from a three-volume set, all by the same translator, and pub-
lished, oddly, by Columbia_University Press.)
41
19
Empty mountains:
no one to be seen.
Yet- hear-
human sounds and echoes.
Returning sunlight
enters the dark woods;
Again shining
on the green moss, above.
- Gary Snyder, l978
Surely one of the best translations, partially because of Sny-
der's lifelong forest experience. Like Rexroth, he can see the
scene. Every word of Wang has been translated, and nothing
added, yet the translation exists as an American poem.
Changing the passive is heard to the imperative hear is par-
ticularly beautiful, and not incorrect: it creates an exact mo-
ment, which is now. Giving us both meanings, sounds and
echoes, for the last word of line 2 is, like most sensible ideas,
revolutionary. Translators always assume that only one read-
ing of a foreign word or phrase may be presented, despite the
fact that perfect correspondence is rare.
The poem ends strangely. Snyder takes the last word, which
everyone else has read as on, and translates it with its alter-
native meaning, above, isolating it from the phrase with a
comma. What's going on? Moss presumably is only above if
one is a rock or bug. Or are we meant to look up, after seeing
the moss, back toward the sun: the vertical metaphor of en-
lightenment?
Jn answer to my query, Snyder wrote: "The reason for' ...
moss, above' ... is that the sun is entering (in its sunset slop-
ing, hence 'again'-a final shaft) the woods, and illuminating
some moss up in tf1e trees. (NOT ON ROCKS.) This is how my
teacher Ch'en Shih-hsiang saw it, and my wife Uapanese) too,
the first time she looked at the poem."
The point is that translation is more than a leap from dic-
tionary to dictionary; it is a reimagining of the poem. As such,
every reading of every poem, regardless of language, is an act
of translation: translation into the reader's intellectual and
emotional life. As no individual reader remains the same, each
reading becomes a different- not merely another-reading.
The same poem cannot be read twice.
Snyder's explanation is only one moment, the latest, when
the poem suddenly transforms before our eyes. Wang's 20
characters remain the same, but the poem continues in a state
of restless change.
43
Further Comments
Eliot Weinberger's commentary on the successive transla-
tions of Wang Wei's little poem illustrates, with succinct clarity,
not only the evolution of the art of translation in the modern
period but at the same time the changes in poetic sensibility.
His examples come from English and, to a lesser extent, from
French; I am sure that a parallel exploration of German or
Italian would produce similar results. Weinberger cites only
one Spanish version, my own. There may be another, and
perhaps one or two in Portuguese. One must admit, however,
that Spanish and Portuguese do not enjoy a corpus of Chinese
translation similar in importance or quality to that of other
languages. This is regrettable: the modern era has discovered
other classicisms besides that of Greco- Roman culture, and
one of them is China and japan.
Weinberger's commentary led me back to my own trans-
lation. Probably the greatest difficulty for any translator of a
Chinese poem is the unique temper of the language and of
the writing. The majority of the poems in the Shi jing, the most
ancient collection of Chinese poetry, are written in Lines of four
syllables that are four characters/words. For example, the pho-
netic transcription of the first line of a small erotic poem in the
Shi jing is composed of these four monosyllables: Xing nu qi
shu. The literal translation is: Sweet girl how pretty. It is not
impossible to transform this phrase into a line from a ballad:
;Que linda Ia dulce nina! or How lovely the pretty maiden! Five
words and eight syllables, twice the original. Arthur Waley
thought to resolve the prosodic problem by having each Chinese
monosyllable correspond to a tonic accent in the English line.
The result was English lines that were quite long, but with the
same number of accents as the Chinese original. This method,
besides being not terribly perfect, is inapplicable to Spanish:
in our language words generally have more syllables than En-
glish iambic pentameter. Our line has either three accents (in
the fourth syllable, in the seventh or eighth, and in the tenth)
or only two (in the sixth and the tenth). In contrast, the English
line has five accents or rhythmic beats. Furthermore, in English
45
the number of syllables may vary; not only do we have more
consonants, but we may also rely on a rich assonance. The
great advantage of the assonant is that the rhyme becomes a
distant echo, one which never exactly repeats the endings of
the previous line. I wiU note, finally, a small similarity between
Chinese and Spanish versification: in Chinese poetry only paired
verses are rhymed, exactly like our romances and traditional
assonant poems.
The first to attempt to make English poems out of Chinese
originals was Ezra Pound. AU of us since who have translated
Chinese and japanese poetry are not only his followers but
his debtors. I never found Pound's theory of translating Chinese
persuasive, and in other writings I have tried to explain my
reasons. It doesn't matter: though his theories seemed unre-
liable, his practice not only convinced me but, literally, en-
chanted me. Pound did not attempt to find metrical equivalents
or rhymes: taking off from the images-ideograms of the orig-
inals, he wrote English poems in free verse. Those poems had
(and still have) an enormous poetic freshness; at the same time
they allow us to glimpse another civilization, and one quite
distant from Western Greco-Roman tradition.
The poems of Cathay (1915) were written in an energetic
language and in irregular verses which I have rather loosely
labeled as free. In fact, although they do not have fixed mea-
sures, each one of them is a verbal unity. Nothing could be
more remote from the prose chopped into short lines that today
passes for free verse. Do Pound's poems correspond to the
originals? A useless question: Pound invented, as Eliot said,
Chinese poetry in English. The points of departure were some
ancient Chinese poems, revived and changed by a great poet;
the result was other poems. Others: the same. With that small
volume of translations Pound, to a great extent, began modern
poetry in English. Yet, at the same time, he also began some-
thing unique: the modern tradition of classical Chinese poetry
in the poetic conscience of the West.
Pound's effort was a success, and after Catfray many
others followed on various paths. I am thinking above all of
ley. The translations of Chinese and japanese poetry
mto Enghsh have been so great and so diverse that they them-
selves form a chapter in the modern poetry of the language.
I find nothing similar in French, although there are notable
transl_ations, such as those by Claude Roy or Fran\ois Cheng.
Certamly we owe to Claude), Segalen, and Saint-John Perse
poetic visions of China- but not memorable translations. It's
a pity. In Spanish this lack has impoverished us.
In my own isolated attempts I followed, at first, the ex-
amples of Pound and, more than anyone, Waley-a ductile
but one less intense and less powerful. Later, little by
httle, I found my own way. At the beginning I used free verse;
later I tried to adjust myself to a fixed rule, without of course
attempting to reproduce Chinese meter. In general, 1 have
endeavored to retain the number of Jines of each poem, not
to scorn assonances and to respect, as much as possible, the
parallelism. This last element is central to Chinese poetry, but
neither Pound nor Waley gave it the attention it deserves. Nor
do the other translators in English. It is a serious omission not
only because parallelism is the nucleus of the best Chinese
philosophers: the yin and the yang. The unity that
sphts mto dualty to reunite and to divide again. I would add
that parallelism links, however slightly, our own indigenous
Mexican poetry with that of China.
In the Han era they moved from a four- syllable line to one
of five and seven (gu slli). These poems are composed in a
strict tonal counterpoint. (The classical language has four tones.)
The number of lines is undefined and only paired lines are
rhymed. During the Tang period versification became more
strict and they wrote poems of eight and four lines (lu shi and
jue qu, respectively). The lines of those poems are, as in the
earlier style, composed of five and seven syllables; the same
rhyme is used throughout the poem. The other rules apply to
parallelism (the four lines in the center of the poem must form
two antithetical couplets) and the tonal structure. This last
47
recalls, in certain respects, classical quantitative versification-
although the rhythm does not come from the combination of
short and long syllables but rather from the alternation of
tones. Every Chinese poem offers a true counterpoint that
cannot be reproduced in any Indo- European language. I will
spare the reader the chart of the various combinations (two
for the five syllable Jines and two for the seven). There are
other forms: the ci (t z'u), poetry written to accompany already
existing musical tunes and with lines of unequal length; dra-
matic verse (qu) and the lyric-dramatic (san qu).
Wang Wei's poem is written in four lines of five syllables
each (jue qu); the second line rhymes with the fourth. ln order
to transmjt the information of the original, while attempting
to recreate the poem in Spanish, I decided to use a line of nine
syllables. 1 chose this meter not only because of its greater
amplitude but also because it appeared to be, without actually
being, a truncated hendecasyllable. It is the least traditional of
our meters and it appears infrequently in Spanish poetry, ex-
cept among the "modernists"- above all, Ruben Darfo-who
used it a great deal. I also decided to use assonant rhyme, but
unlike the Chinese original I rhymed aU four lines. The poem
is divided into two parts. The first alludes to the solitude of
the forest, and aural rather than visual sensations predominate
(no one is seen, only voices are heard). The second refers to
the apparition of light in a forest clearing and is composed of
silently visual sensations: the light breaks through the branches,
falls on the moss and, in a manner of speaking, rises again.
Attentive to this sensual and spiritual division, I divided the
poem into two pairs: the first line rhymes with the second and
the third rhymes with the fourth. I left the two first lines of
my earlier version intact, but I radically changed the third and
the fourth lines:
No se ve gente en este monte,
s61o se oyen, Jejos, voces.
Bosque profundo. Luz poniente:
alumbra el musgo y, verde, asciende.
(No people are seen on this mountain,/ only voices, far-off,
are heard./ Deep forest. Western light:/ it illuminates the moss
and, green, rises.)
The first two lines need no explanation. It seems to me that
I succeeded in transmitting the information while conserving
the impersonality of the original: the I is implicit. The third
line, according to Cheng, means literally: returni11g
shadow-to penetrate-deep-forest. Cheng points out that re-
turning shadow alludes to the western sun. James J. Y. Liu trans-
lates in similar terms but, with greater propriety, says reflected
light in place of returning shadow. In his literary version Liu
writes: The reflected sunlight pierces the deep forest. Cheng has
Ombres retoument dans Ia fore! profonde. The reader, through a
note at the foot of the page, learns that ombres retoume11t- a
rather forced trope-means the rays of the setting sun. And
why shadows and not light or brightness or something similar?
I wavered a great deal about translating this line. First I wrote:
Cruza e/ follaje el sol poniente. (The western sun crosses the
foliage.) But the poet does not speak of foliage but rather of
the forest. I then tried: Traspasa el bosque el sol poniente. (The
western sun crosses through the forest.) Somewhat better, but
perhaps too energetic, too active. Next I decided to omit the
verb, as Spanish allowed the ellipsis. The two syntactical blocks
(bosque profundo/luz poniente; deep forest/western light) pre-
served the impersonality of the original and at the same time
alluded to the silent ray of light crossing through the over-
growth.
According to Cheng the last line means: still - to shine-
on- green-moss. Liu says: again-shine-green- moss-upon.
That is: the reflection is green. In rus literal version Weinberger
49
includes all of the possibilities: to refurnlaKain - to shine/to re-
flect - green/blue/black - moss/1 ichen-abovelon(top of )/top. In two
places my version departs from the others. First: the western
light illuminates the moss-in place of reflecting it or shining
on it - because the verb illuminate contains both the physical
aspect of the phenomenon (shining, light, clarity, brightness)
and the spiritual (to illuminate understanding). Second: I say
that the green reflection ascends or rises because I want to ac-
centuate the spiritual character of the scene. The light of the
western sun refers to the point of the horizon ruled by the
Amida Buddha. Without trying to pin down the floating game
of analogies, one might say that the western s un is the spiritual
light of the paradise of the West, the cardinal point of the
Amida Buddha; the solitude of the mountain and the forest is
this world in which there is nobody really, though we hear
the echoes of voices; and the clearing in the forest illuminated
by the silent ray of light is the one who meditates and con-
templates.
- Octavio Paz
Postscript
After the publication of these commentaries in the Mexican
magazine Vuelta, the editors received a furious letter from a
professor at the Colegio de Mexico, charging me with nothing
less than "crimes against Chinese poetry." Among those crim-
inal acts was the "curious neglect" of "Boodberg's cedule."
The cryptic reference, I later discovered, was to Cedules from
a Berkeley Workshop in Asiatic Philology, a series of essays pri-
vately published by Prof. Peter A. Boodberg in 1954 and 1955.
The relevant essay, "Philology in Translation- Land," is 1 Y2
pages long and is devoted to excoriating, in idiosyncratic Jan·
guage,. all other translators and scholars of Wang Wei for failing
to realize that the last word of the poem, sltang (which now
means above, on {top of}, top) had an alternate meaning in the
Tang dynasty: to rise.
This usage apparently dropped out of the language cen-
turies ago. But for those who doubt the accuracy of poetry
translated by poets rather than scholars, it should be noted
that Octavio Paz, in his latest version of the poem, intuitively
divined this forgotten meaning and translated the word as
asciende.
Boodberg ends his "cedule" with his own version of the
poem, which he calls "a still inadequate, yet philologically
correct, rendition of the stanza (with due attention to grapho-
syntactic overtones and enjambment)":
The empty mountain: to see no men,
Barely earminded of men talking-countertones,
And antistrophic lights-and-shadows incoming deeper the
deep- treed grove
Once more to glowlight the blue- green mosses- going up
(The empty mountain ... )
To me this sounds like Gerard Manley Hopkins on LSD,
and I am grateful to the furious professor for sending me in
search of this, the strangest of the many Weis.
-E.W.
51
Sources
Bynner, Witter & Kiang Kang-hu. The Jade Mountain. New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1929.
Chang, H. C. Chinese Literature, Vol /1: Nature Poetry. New York:
Columbia University Press, 1977.
Chen, C.J. & Michael Bullock. Poems of Solitude. Rutland, Vt.
& Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle, 1960.
Cheng, L'ecriture poetique chinoise. Paris: Editions du
Seuil, 1977. [English translation: Chinese Poetic Writing. trans.
by Donald A. ruggs &Jerome P. Seaton. Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1982.]
Fletcher, W.J.B. Gems of Chinese Verse. Shanghai: n.pb.l., 1919.
Jenyns, Soame. Further Poems of the Tang Dynasty. London:
John Murray, 1944.
Liu, James J. Y. The Art of Chinese Poetry. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1962.
McNaughton, William. Chinese Literature. Rutland, Vt.: Charles
E. Tuttle, 1974.
Margoulies, G. Anthologie Rnisonee de Ia Litterature Chi noise. Paris:
Payot, 1948.
Paz, Octavio. Versimres y Diversiones. Mexico City: Joaquin Mor-
tiz, 1974 (revised edition, 1978).
Rexroth, Kenneth. Love and the Turning Year. New York: New
Directions, 1970.
Robinson, G. W. Poems of Wang Wei. Harmondsworth, U.K.:
Penguin Books, 1973.
Snyder, Gary. Journal for the Protection of All Beings. No. 4, Fall
1978.
Wang Wei. Hiding the Universe. trans. by Wai-lim Yip. New
York: Munshinsha/Grossman, 1972.
Wang Wei. Poems. trans. by Chang Yin-nan & Lewis Walmsley.
Rutland, Vt. & Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle, 1958.
Watson, Burton. Chinese Lyricism. New York: Columbia Uni-
versity Press, 1971.
For permission to reprint copyrighted material, the
authors are indebted to the following:
Georges Borchardt Inc .. for the Francois Cheng translation,
Copyright © 1977 by Editions du Seuil;
Columbia University Press: for the Burton Watson translation,
Copyright© 1972 by the Columbia University Press
and for the H. C. Chang translation,
Copyright © 1977 by H. C. Chang;
Farrar Straus & Giroux: for the Witter Bynner & Kiang Kang Hu translation,
Copyright © 1978 by the Witter Bynner Foundation;
Indiana University Press. for the Donald A. Riggs & Jerome P. Seaton
translation of Franc01s Cheng,
Copyright © 1982 by the Indiana University Press;
New Directions: for the Kenneth Rexroth translation,
Copyright © 1970 by Kenneth Rexroth;
Octavio Paz: for his translations,
Copyright © 1974, 1978 by Octavia Paz
Penguin Books: for the G.W. Robinson translation,
Copyright © 1973 by G.W. Robinson
Gary Snyder: for his translation,
Copyright © 1978 by Gary Snyder
Charles E. Tuttle Co.: for the C.j. Chen & Michael Bullock translation,
Copyright © 1960 by jerome Chen & Michael Bullock;
and for the William McNaughton translation,
Copyright ©japan 1974 by Charles Tuttle;
University of California Press: for the Peter A. Boodberg translation,
Copyright © 1979 by The Regents of the University of California;
University of Ch1cago Press: for the james J.Y. Liu translation,
Copyright © 1962 by james J. Y. Liu;
Wai -lim Yip: for his translation,
Copyright © 1972 byWai -lim Yip.

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The poem is by Wang Wei (c. 700-761), known in his lifetime as a wealthy Buddhist painter and calligrapher, and to later generations as a master poet in an age of masters, the Tang Dynasty. The quatrain is from a series of twenty poems on various sights near the Wang (no relation) River. The poems were written as part of a massive horizontal landscape scroiJ, a genre he invented. The painting was copied (translated) for centuries. The original is lost, and the earliest surviving copy comes from the 17th century: Wang's landscape after 900 years of transformation. In classical Chinese, each character (ideogram) represents a word of a single syllable. Few of the characters are, as is commonly thought, entirely representational. But some of the basic vocabulary is indeed pictograph ic, and with those few h undred characters one can play the game of pretending to read Chinese. Reading the poem left to right, top to bottom, the second character in line 1 is apparently a mountni11; the last character in the same line a person-both are stylizations that evolved from more literal representations. Character 4 in line 1 was a favorite of Ezra Pound's: what he interpreted as an eye on legs; that is, the eye in motion, to see. Character 5 in line 3 is two trees, forest. Spatial relationships are concretely portrayed in character 3 of line 3, to enter, and character 5 of line 4, al10zte or on (top ofJ. More typical of Chinese is character 2 of line 4, to shine, which contains an image of the sun in the upper left and of fire at the bottom, as well as a purely phonetic clement key to the word's pronunciation-in the upper right. Most of the other characters have no pictorial content useful for decipherment.

2

J

\ I Fan jing (ying) rushen lin \ \ I \ Fu zhao qing tai shang The transliteration is from modern Chinese. In modern Chinese a monosyllable is pronounced in one of four tones. for Chinese philosophy. Unfortunately. perhaps.both of which are untranslatable. and the q a hard ch. which was always based on relation rather than substance. Thus a Chinese monosyllabic word (and often the written character) is comprehensible only in the context of the phrase: a linguistic basis. The a is the ah of father. using Karlgren's system may be found in Hugh M. letters floating above the words. For poetry. and Wes tern "meter" impossible. But translators tend to rush in where wise men never tread. this means that rhyme is inevitable. and often may be seen attempting to nurture Chinese rhyme patterns in the hostile environment of a Western language. to the Rumanians who helped develop it. perhaps. their pronunciation has changed considerably since the Tang Dynasty. is that the zh is a j sound. but not to English speakers. but any given sound in any given tone has scores of possible meanings.. Chinese has the least number of sounds of any major language.2 (transliteration) LUZHAI ' ' ' ' ' Kong shan bu jian ren ' ' ' Dan wen ren yu xiang . and a leveled forest of diacritical marks . with upside-down letters. the x a heavily aspirated s. 4 5 . Stimson's 55 Tang Poems (Yale. quirky pinyin system. using the current. Obvious.. 1976). In the 1920's the philologist Bernhard Karlgren attempted to recreate Tang speech. the transliteration is written in its own forbidding language. a transliteration of this poem. Chinese prosody is largely concerned with the number of characters per line and the arrangement of tones. Though the characters have remained the same.

is a place-name. The second couplet has. the firstperson singular rarely appears in Chinese poetry. context is all. A single character may be noun. verb. and adjective. the experience becomes both universal and immediate to the reader.3 (character-by-character translation) Empty mountain(l>) hill(s) to hear (negative) to see person people sound to echo forest But person people to enter words conversation deep To return bright( ness) shadow(s)• to shine to reflect To return Again green blue black moss lichen above on (top of) top I have presented only those definitions that arc possible for this text. which I take from a map of Illinois. something like Deer Grove. 7 . all of them equally "correct. The first two lines are fairly straightforward. as we shall see. The title of the poem. It probably alludes to the Deer Park in Sarnath. retrmwr)l shadows is a trope meaning rays of surrsel. Lu zhai. By eliminating the controlling individual mind of the poet. where the Gautama Buddha preached his first sermon. 6 ." • According to Fran<. quite a few possible readings. Similarly. what is happening has happened and will happen. It may even have contradictory readings: character 2 of line 3 is either jing (brightness) or ying (shadow). Of particular difficulty to the Western translator is the absence of tense in Chinese verbs: in the poem. Contrary to the evidence of most translations.OIS Cheng. nouns have no number: rose is a rose is all roses. Again. There are others.

some translations that are overly attached to the originals. first published in 191 Pound's small book. ." Rather than stuffing the original into the cors of traditional verse forms. Pound created a new poetry in English drawn from wh was unique to the Chinese.B. Regardless of its scholarly worth. intuitively corrected mistakes in the Fen< losa manuscript. And in their reflection green mosses appear. ambiguity has been translated into confusio• Fletcher's line has no meaning. of the original. whe1 Wang states simply that voices are heard. (What reflection where?) C perhaps the line has a lovely and unlikely Platonic subtlety: their refers to the mosses. spinning out individual translatiot which are relatives. The "accuracy" of Pounc versions remains a sore point: pedants still snort at the erro1 but Wai-lim Yip has demonstrated that Pound." 8 9 . who at the tin knew no Chinese. of the Chinese poem-what he called the "nev that stays news" through the centuries. like all early (and many later) translators. Fletcher explains his curious (and equally Platonic) title wit a note that zlzai means "the place where the deer sleeps. was based on a notebook literal Chinese translations prepared by the orientalist Erm FenoUosa and a japanese informant. Fletcher. where is the narrator?) in line 4." said Mother Ann Lee of the Shakers. il 'form'. then what appears is the reflectio of moss itself. Eliot's words. This living matter fun tions somewhat like DNA. The relationsh· between original and translation is parent-child. And there ar inescapably. Where Wang sunlight entas the forest. Fletcher. marked.4 The Form of the Deer So lone seem the hills.S.j. containing some of the most beautif poems in the English language. But whence is the echo of voices I hear? The rays of the sunset pierce slanting the forest.W. as Fletcher and many others h< done. Fletcher's rays pierce slanting. feels t must explain and "improve" the original poem. Cath. in T. (And if the hills are there. Fletcher invents first-person narrator who asks where the sounds are comin from. "evolv· a form. "Every force. not clones." Pound's genius was the discovery of the living mattE the force. 1919 The translation is typical of those written before the gene1 recognition of Ezra Pound's Cathay. "the invention of Chinese poet in our time. there is no one in sight there. and others that are constantly rebelling.

Such lack of sense was traditionally explained by reference to the mystical. Bynner's Wang seems to be watching the world through a haze of opium reflected in a hundred thimbles of wine.) Where Wang is specific. (Wang. Witter Bynner was a primary purveyor of Chinoiserie translation in English in the 1920's-though not as extreme an exoticist as his Imagist counterparts. entering a grove. His Chinese poet does however write from the ethereal mists of tentative half-perception: there seems to be. The I even hears a voice where the sunlight shines back to him from the moss. Where sunlight. And yet I think I hear a voice. inscrutable FuJ~ancbn East. however. quite plainly sees no one and hears someone. sensitive.. Shines back to me from the green moss. It is a world where no statement can be made without a pregnant. world-weary ellipsis. . 1929 10 11 . and yet I think I hear.Witter Bynner & Kiang Kang-hu..5 Deer-Park Hermitage There seems to'be no one on the empty mountain . Amy Lowell and Florence Ayscough.

if not to Wang. and no one in sight But I hear the echo of voices. . But Jenyns-at the time Assistant Keeper of the Department of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum. lie is the only translator to prefer lichen to moss. The slanting sun at evening penetrates the deep woods And shines reflected on the blue lichens." 12 13 . though in plural form the word is particularly ugly. Jenyns and other translators come from a tradition where the n otion of verifying a poetic image would be silly. but fairl y direct.6 The Deer Park An empty hill.Soame Jenyns. In the fourth line zhao becomes both sltines reflected. rather than one or the o ther. but he is still in the "reflected" trap: from what is the sun reflected? Chinese poetry was based on the precise observation o f the physical world. where the word "poetic" itself is synonymous with "dreamy. 1944 Dull. Jenyns' only additions a re the inevitable I and the explanatory slanting sun at et!enmg. scribbling through the Blitz-was so far removed from the poem's experience tha t he found it necessary to add the following footnote to line 2: "The woods are so thick that woodcutters and herdsmen are hidden." He might have squeaked by had he written And sltines reflected by the blue lie/tens-accurate to nature.

. simply. In the second line he poeticizes the voices by having them come from far off. nobody in sight becomes the ponderous malaise of everything is sclitary. Margoulies.) 14 . The French indefinite pronoun happily excludes the need for a narrator.7 La Foret Dans Ia montagne tout est solitaire./ One hears from far off the echo of human voices./ The sun that penetrates to the depths of the forest I Reflects its ray on the green moss. Margoulies prefers to generalize Wang's specifics: Deer Grave becomes. Le soleil qui penetrc au fond de Ia fortH Reflete son eclat sur Ia mousse vert. -G. On the mountain everything is solitary. The Forest. On entend de bien loin l'echo des voix humaines. 1948 (The forest.

green mosses. In this poem.8 Deer Forest Hermitage Through the deep wood. Walmsley. In its way a spiritual exercise. that empty = lonely!) but it's a decorator's delight: the moss is as green as jade and the sunlight casts motley patterns. but unfortunately their work bore little resemblance to the original. It is a classic example of the translator attempting to "improve" the original. Such cases are not uncommon. translation is dependent on the dissolution of the translator's ego: an absolute humility toward the text. Yet faint voices drift on the air. the couplets are reversed for no reason. He didn't. It never occurs to Chang and Walmsley that Wang could have written the equivalent of casts motley patterns 011 the jadegreen mosses had he wanted to. No glimpse of man in this lonely mountain. 1958 Chang and Walmsley published the first book-length translation of Wang Wei in English. when one sees no poet and hears only the translator speaking. the slanting sunlight Casts motley patterns on the jade. A bad translation is the insistent voice of the translator-that is. t6 17 . and are the product of a translator's unspoken contempt for the foreign poet. The voices are faint and drift on the air. The mountain is lonely (surely a Western conceit. -Chang Yin-nan & Lewis C.

-C. On the lonely mountain I meet no one. the lonely mountain.9 The Deer Enclosure . At an angle the sun's rays enter the depths of the wood. Wang's see becomes meet in their second line. Chen and Bullock make some familiar "improvements": the first-person narrator. 1960 . Chen & Michael Bullock. And shine upon the green moss. the sun at an angle. 1 hear only the echo of human voices.J. Their main innovation is the creation of eight lines for Wang's four-agesture that apparently caught them short when they had to break the last line into two.

by changing the expected is to can be. 20 21 h . a steal from Eliot. Thus Liu's version is more accurate than most. . and the fourth falls with a thud on the mossy ground. In the fourth line. ground added.James J. that the sunlight is returning to the forest. Human voices. The Art of Chinese Poetry. applied the techniques of 1940's New Criticism to the interpretation of Chinese poetry. however. the third gasps. But human voices are heard to resound. The New Critics preached strict attention to sense (special emphasis on learned irony) and the general neglect of music. and the 19th century resound is only there to rhyme with ground. green has been subtracted. is redundant. 1962 Liu's book. The reflected sunlight pierces the deep forest And falls again upon the mossy ground. In Liu's favor.Y. Liu has transformed Wang's specifics into a general and not terribly bright remark. but reflected sunlight wouldn't. are the absence of the " I" and the usual explanations. and absent from Liu's third line is the sense that it is late afternoon. but the first two lines heave. A ray of sunlight might pierce the deep forest. Liu. In the first line.10 On the empty mountains no one can be seen.

In line 2.e. Rexroth's great skill is apparent in three tiny gestures. if not the letter. 1970 The taxonomy of Chinese translators is fairly simple. and it makes a rather clutzy fourth line. and the philosophical empty mountain becomes the empirical mountain wilderness. Rexroth ignores what he presumably dislikes. Jonathan Chaves) . once in a great while. by using comes rather than the more obvious goes he has created an implicit narrator-observer (i. A. 22 23 . . of the original: the poem Wang might have written had he been born a 20th century American. Rexroth's slip for Wang's enter is perhaps too sensual. Kenneth Rexroth belonged to this last category (along with Gary Snyder and the later Pound)-although this particular example is perhaps more "imitation" than translation. . It is the closest to the spirit. but a few can (among them: Burton Watson. The low rays of the sun Slip through the dark forest...reminiscent of Sanskrit forest trysts-but it is irresistible. Arthur Waley. There are the scholars: most are incapable of writing poetry. Certain words and phrases are his own invention. The title is eliminated. and lets us hear it. One of them. he takes an utterly ordinary phrase. a few know some. "comes here where I am") without using the first person.C. able to stand by itself. for the first time. Graham. And there are the poets: most know no Chinese.. Second.Kenneth Rexroth. And gleam again on the shadowy moss. But this is clearly the first poem of the group.11 Deep in the Mountain Wilderness Deep in the mountain wilderness Where nobody ever comes OnJy once in a great while Something like the sound of a far off voice. And third. as something lovely and onomatopoeic. or feels cannot be translated. where nobody ever comes leads him into a trap: he must modify the sound of a far off voice with something like. in the original.

which launched the "Chinese Renaissance" in literature by rejecting classical language and themes in favor of vernacular and "realism". His presentation of the image is as direct as the Chinese. -Burton Watson. rhymes. as in everything. and number of characters per line. Watson retains Wang's parallelism effortlessly enough (no one/someone) yet he is the first translator to do so. concision. were largely inspired by Ezra Pound's 1913 Imagist manifestoes. he is comparable only to Arthur Waley in this century. yet every word of the Chinese has been translated without indulging. is based on parallelism: the dual (yin-yang) nature of the universe. no explanation.] Watson here renders the first two characters of line 1 with two words. nothing is more difficult than simpJjcity. [Curiously. while most of the French and American modernists lit joss sticks at the altars of their newfound Chinese ancestors. Hu Shi thought it came from the West. In the translation of Chjnese poetry. Wang's first two lines are typical: see no people/ but hear people. no article. Hu Shi's 1917 manifestoes. no one in sight. shining over the green moss again.12 Deer Fence Empty hills. More than arrangements of tones. Many still are. He even repeats a character. and the use of everyday speech. however. Chinese poets were. 24 25 . the scholars of Chinese ignored. late sunlight enters the deep wood. only the sound of someone talking. or were actively hostile to modern poetry. Full circle: Pound thought he found it in China. history and philosophy. There are 24 English words (six per line) for the Chinese 20. He was also the first scholar whose work displayed an affinity with the modernist revolution in American poetry: absolute precision. in a telegraphic minimal ism. 1971 Watson is a prolific and particularly fine translator of classical Chinese and Japanese poetry. like all ancient poetries. as others have done. Chinese poetry. excited by the doings in the West.

In a later version of this translation. Sun's reflection reaches into the woods And shines upon the green moss. Like Burton Watson. But voices of men are heard. 1972 27 . (It is rarely possible.) Thus the strangeness of no man is seen and the oddly anthropomorphic reaches into.Wai-lim Yip.13 Deer Enclosure Yip is a critic who has written brilliantly on the importance of Chinese poetics to 20th century American poetry.leaving out deep and again. Yip actually gives us less than the original. 1976). published in his anthology Ch111ese Poetry (University of California Press. Empty mountain: no man is seen. As a translator he is less successful. . though many try. perhaps because English is apparently his second language. Yip clipped the first line to the almost pidgin Empty mountain: no man. But unlike Watson and the other translators. Yip follows Wang's repetition of person in the first two Jines (though his persons are men) and presents six English words per line for the Chinese five. to translate out of one's natural language.

In this poem Robinson not only creates a narrator. he effectively scuttles the mood of the poem. With that one word. try reading this aloud. Robinson's translation. we. -G. he offers an image that makes little sense on the forest floor: one would have to be smaU indeed to think of moss vertically. 1973 . the most widely available edition of Wang in English. For a jolt to the system. he makes it a group.14 Deer Park Hills empty. no one to be seen We hear only voices echoedWith light coming back into the deep wood The top of the green moss is lit again. unhappily. published by Penguin Books. w. is. Robinson. as though it were a family outing. Reading the last word of the poem as top.

In Wang Wei's poem.. is mentioned. Without losing the No se ve gente en este monte. a spiritual experience? Sometime later. branches. There I encountered a confirmation of my suspicion: for Wang Wei the light of the setting sun had a very precise meaning. impersonal. N oh p eople are seen onthrough the d I L" ht breaks this mountain. This is nature poetry. Transformation of man and nature before the divine light./ Only vo~ees. domain of the Amida Buddha. passivity and impersonality of the trees. voces.rk Hermtlnge./ Spread among the grass •I shmes green. so that. impersonality.ersiones. Jg . even more than the naturalistic aestheticism traditional in this kind of composition. Por los ramajes Ia luz rompe. reading some Mahayana texts. Months later. the Oriental spirit is impregnated with the objectivity. I was surprised by the frequency with which the Western paradise. impersonally. who knows my love for Chinese poetry.15 En Ia Ermita del Parque de los Venados For the second (1978) edition of Versiones y Dh. Burton Watson. are ear . it receives the impartial light of a revelation that is also impersonal. S6lo se oyen. In place of the humanization of the world that surrounds us. receives illumination . An allusion to the Amida Buddha: at the end of the afternoon the adept meditates and. I remembered that Wang Wei had been a fervent Buddhist: I consulted one of his biographies and discovered that his devotion for Am ida was such that he had written a hymn in which he speaks of his desire to be reborn in the Western Paradise-the place of the setting sun . grass and rocks. far from the mysticism of a St. lejos. far off. like the moss in the forest. but a Buddhist nature poetry: does not the quatrain reflect. although in a sense inverse to that of Western tradition. After a number of attempts I wrote these four unrhymed lines: three with nine syllables each and the last with eleven. but no less authentic or profound than that of the Spanish poet. sent me his Chinese Lyricism. his selected translations.] JO Jl . 1974 . Tendida entre Ia yerba brilla verde. for the poem carries to an extreme the characteristics of Chinese poetry: universality. the solitude of the mountain is so great that not even the poet himself is present. . absence of subject. John of the Cross. Paz wrote: The translation of this poem is particularly difficult. absence of time. Poetry perfectly objective.. -Octavio Paz. [In the Deer Pn.

the ordinary (sunset in the forest) represents the extraordinary (the enlightenment of the individual) which. in terms of the cosmos. But people are heard. (How mossy-soft and damp. though not strictly literal. Wang begins both Hnes with to return: taking a specific time of day and transforming it into a moment. 33 . are heard. he makes the voices far off.reality of the trees. But the mountain is empty because it is an illusion. The light from the Western Paradise. frozen in its recurrence. En Ia yerba tendida brilla verde./ Western light breaks through the branches. In the fourth line. far oft./ Spread over the grass it shines green. voces. La luz poniente rompe entre las ramas. the moss has become grass. is unpleasantly squishy. satori. lejos.is the English moss!) What is missing from these lovely third and fourth lines is the cyclical quality of the original. Imitating his reticence. no doubt because the Spanish word for moss. rocks and earth. of Zen Buddhism./ Only voices. so the mountain is not empty. may be the most beautiful of all the versions: replacing the abstract light enters the forest with the concrete and dramatic light breaks through the branchesthe light almost becoming the sudden iUumination. [No people are seen on this mountain. His third line. like Margoulies and Rexroth. Wang Wei's mountain and forest are emblems of the void. An endless series of negations: The mountain seems empty (without people) because no one's in sight. is as ordinary as sunlight illuminating a patch of moss. in the second.] Paz drops m~pty from the first line. Reading the image as a metaphor for illumination. musgo. I limited myself to lightly changing the last two lines: Nose ve gente en este monte. S6lo se oyen. the light caUed shadow falls. that becomes cosmic.

it's something of an albatross. The last line adds dark to fill out the thumpety-thump. a lmost a parody of Eastern Wisdom: in an empty glass there is no liquid.16 Li Ch'ai McNaughton oHers the Chinese place-name as a title.) Splitting the last couplet into four lines is apparently an attempt at pictorial representation. half-Dada echoing voices sauce. But here might echoing voices cross. (Not much rhymes with moss. 1974 I I I 35 34 . In empty mountains no one can be seen. Line 2 places the action here for no reason and adds cross for the rhyme scheme he has imposed on himself. I -William McNaughton. but his transliteration is incorrect-something like Beer Park. Line 1 has been turned into a general statement. But he might have attempted an Elizabethan pastoral echoing voices toss or perhaps a half-Augustan. Reflecting rays entering the deep wood Glitter again on the dark green moss.

] 37 . which is at the same time a spiritual experience. -Fran<. In the third. Seuls. Seeing here signifies illumination and deep communion with the essence of things. Echos and au loin (far off) are added to the second line. in his ears the echoes of human voices still resound. The last two lines are centered in the theme of "vision": to see the golden effect of the setting sun on the green moss. similarly. Donald Riggs & Jerome Seaton) Montagne deserte. les echos des voix resonnent. (tr. 1977 Cheng also presents a literal translation of the poem: Montagne vide I ne percevoir personne Seulement entendre I voix humaine n?sonner Ombre-retournee I penetrer fon~t profonde Encore Juire I sur Ia mousse verte It is curious to see how Cheng poeticizes and even Westernizes his literal version to create a finished translation./ Shadows return to the deep forest:/ Last gleaming of the moss. From the point of view of content." which is therefore no longer merely a "complement of place"." But through the suppression of the personal pronoun and of locative elements the poet identifies himself immediately with the "empty mountain. his literal ombre-retournee (returned shadow-a trope he notes as mean- [Deer Enclosure.ois Cheng. the first two lines present the poet as still "not seeing". the echoes of voices resound. The Buddhist montagne vide (empty mountain) becomes the Romantic montagne deserte (deserted mountain). green. Personne n'est en vue. vert. in the third line he is the ray of the setting sun that penetrates the forest. far off. only some echoes of voices of people walking come to me. The first couplet should be interpreted "On the empty mountain I meet no one. an experience of the Void and of communion with Nature. Elsewhere the poet often omits the personal pronoun to effect the description of actions in sequence where human acts are related to movements in nature. au loin./ Only.17 Clos aux cerfs Cheng writes: [Wang) describes here a walk on the mountain. No one in sight. Deserted mountain. Ombres retournent dans Ia foret profonde: Dernier eclat de Ia mousse.

Translations aside. offers a translation that seems to owe more to Gary Snyder's 1978 poem (#19) than to Cheng: DEER PARK Empty mountain. published in 1982. the grove. not the moss). original study of Chinese poetry.the green referring to the gleaming. Jerome P. In the English version. vert (last gleaming of the moss.ing "rays of sunset") has become a subject and verb. None to be seen. on lichen's green. green. Cheng's last line is quite peculiar: the literal Encore luire sur Ia mousse lJerte (to shine again on the green moss) becomes Dernier eclat de Ia mousse. the echoing of voices. Seaton. Cheng's book is a luminous. working "after the interpretations of" Cheng. Sun shines. ombres retournent (shadows return) which considerably alters the meaning. Returning shadows enter deep. But hear. 39 . again. The line owes more to French Symbolists than to Tang Buddhists.

. all by the same translator. not doing) there? OnJy the shadow knows. oddly.) Not the shadow on a man on the deserted hillAnd yet one hears voices speaking. In short. but in such surroundings. (It is taken from a three-volume set. Stray shafts of the sun pick out the green moss.C. Chang. 1977 40 41 . Why are the shafts of sun stray? Why are they shafts at all? And why do they pick out the moss? The verb is unavoidably reminiscent of the consumption of winkles and crab. In line 1 the first on is probably a typographical error. what's that shadow doing (or more exactly.18 The Deer Park Chang translates 12 of Wang's 20 words.H. and makes up the rest. and published. the poem is more Chang than Wang. In any event. Deep in the seclusion of the woods. it's hard to tell. by Columbia_University Press.

Giving us both meanings. moss. despite the fact that perfect correspondence is rare. above' .Gary Snyder. it is a reimagining of the poem. each reading becomes a different. is an act of translation: translation into the reader's intellectual and emotional life.. he can see the scene. and translates it with its alternative meaning.not merely another-reading. As such. . for the last word of line 2 is. regardless of language. the latest. back toward the sun: the vertical metaphor of enlightenment? Jn answer to my query. partially because of Snyder's lifelong forest experience. after seeing the moss. sounds and echoes. and nothing added. Snyder wrote: "The reason for' . and my wife Uapanese) too. Again shining on the green moss. the first time she looked at the poem. Every word of Wang has been translated. Changing the passive is heard to the imperative hear is particularly beautiful. above. revolutionary. every reading of every poem. Translators always assume that only one reading of a foreign word or phrase may be presented.. Like Rexroth. Snyder's explanation is only one moment. which everyone else has read as on. Returning sunlight enters the dark woods. Yet. 43 . like most sensible ideas. when the poem suddenly transforms before our eyes. hence 'again'-a final shaft) the woods. The same poem cannot be read twice. Snyder takes the last word. but the poem continues in a state of restless change. (NOT ON ROCKS. and illuminating some moss up in tf1e trees. above. What's going on? Moss presumably is only above if one is a rock or bug.19 Empty mountains: no one to be seen. Or are we meant to look up. isolating it from the phrase with a comma.) This is how my teacher Ch'en Shih-hsiang saw it. Wang's 20 characters remain the same.. and not incorrect: it creates an exact moment.. is that the sun is entering (in its sunset sloping. l978 Surely one of the best translations." The point is that translation is more than a leap from dictionary to dictionary.hearhuman sounds and echoes. yet the translation exists as an American poem . As no individual reader remains the same. The poem ends strangely. which is now.

In contrast. Our line has either three accents (in the fourth syllable. The result was English lines that were quite long. Weinberger cites only one Spanish version. but with the same number of accents as the Chinese original. is inapplicable to Spanish: in our language words generally have more syllables than English iambic pentameter. however. to a lesser extent. the most ancient collection of Chinese poetry. in English 45 . This method. One must admit. are written in Lines of four syllables that are four characters/words. It is not impossible to transform this phrase into a line from a ballad : . Furthermore. Weinberger's commentary led me back to my own translation. my own. the phonetic transcription of the first line of a small erotic poem in the Shi jing is composed of these four monosyllables: Xing nu qi shu. twice the original. For example. I am sure that a parallel exploration of German or Italian would produce similar results. The literal translation is: Sweet girl how pretty. The majority of the poems in the Shi jing. in the seventh or eighth. besides being not terribly perfect.Roman culture. and perhaps one or two in Portuguese.Que linda Ia dulce nina! or How lovely the pretty maiden! Five words and eight syllables. This is regrettable: the modern era has discovered other classicisms besides that of Greco. not only the evolution of the art of translation in the modern period but at the same time the changes in poetic sensibility. and one of them is China and japan.Further Comments Eliot Weinberger's commentary on the successive translations of Wang Wei's little poem illustrates. the English line has five accents or rhythmic beats. from French. There may be another. His examples come from English and. and in the tenth) or only two (in the sixth and the tenth). with succinct clarity. Probably the greatest difficulty for any translator of a Chinese poem is the unique temper of the language and of the writing. that Spanish and Portuguese do not enjoy a corpus of Chinese translation similar in importance or quality to that of other languages. Arthur Waley thought to resolve the prosodic problem by having each Chinese monosyllable correspond to a tonic accent in the English line.

such as those by Claude Roy or Fran\ois Cheng. as much as possible. however slightly. These poems are composed in a strict tonal counterpoint. It's a pity. In my own isolated attempts I followed. I never found Pound's theory of translating Chinese persuasive. although they do not have fixed measures. respectively). the result was other poems.the number of syllables may vary. not only do we have more consonants. our own indigenous Mexican poetry with that of China.syllable line to one of five and seven (gu slli). but we may also rely on a rich assonance. The points of departure were some ancient Chinese poems. a small similarity between Chinese and Spanish versification: in Chinese poetry only paired verses are rhymed. later I tried to adjust myself to a fixed rule. not to scorn assonances and to respect. he wrote English poems in free verse. The other rules apply to parallelism (the four lines in the center of the poem must form two antithetical couplets) and the tonal structure. more than anyone. and in other writings I have tried to explain my reasons. 1 have endeavored to retain the number of Jines of each poem. at first. finally. and one quite distant from Western Greco-Roman tradition. exactly like our romances and traditional assonant poems. Later. Waley-a ductile t~Jent. but one less intense and less powerful. at the same time they allow us to glimpse another civilization. During the Tang period versification became more strict and they wrote poems of eight and four lines (lu shi and jue qu. the parallelism. although there are notable transl_ations. I found my own way. revived and changed by a great poet. I wiU note. At the beginning I used free verse. began modern poetry in English. composed of five and seven syllables. I would add that parallelism links. It is a serious omission not only because parallelism is the nucleus of the best Chinese po~ts ~nd philosophers: the yin and the yang.but not memorable translations. It doesn't matter: though his theories seemed unreliable. The unity that sphts mto dualty to reunite and to divide again. Those poems had (and still have) an enormous poetic freshness. Chinese poetry in English. Yet. Certamly we owe to Claude). without of course attempting to reproduce Chinese meter. one which never exactly repeats the endings of the previous line. I find nothing similar in French. his practice not only convinced me but. In the Han era they moved from a four. The great advantage of the assonant is that the rhyme becomes a distant echo. Pound did not attempt to find metrical equivalents or rhymes: taking off from the images-ideograms of the originals. and Saint-John Perse poetic visions of China . the same rhyme is used throughout the poem. Do Pound's poems correspond to the originals? A useless question: Pound invented. at the same time. (The classical language has four tones. The lines of those poems are. Nothing could be more remote from the prose chopped into short lines that today passes for free verse. Others: the same. With that small volume of translations Pound. as in the earlier style. In general. AU of us since who have translated Chinese and japanese poetry are not only his followers but his debtors. enchanted me. In fact. but neither Pound nor Waley gave it the attention it deserves. little by httle. This last element is central to Chinese poetry. Pound's effort was a success. The poems of Cathay (1915) were written in an energetic language and in irregular verses which I have rather loosely labeled as free. The translations of Chinese and japanese poetry mto Enghsh have been so great and so diverse that they themselves form a chapter in the modern poetry of the language. I am thinking above all of ~rthur ~a ley. and after Catfray many others followed on various paths. he also began something unique: the modern tradition of classical Chinese poetry in the poetic conscience of the West. to a great extent. In Spanish this lack has impoverished us. literally. This last 47 . each one of them is a verbal unity. The first to attempt to make English poems out of Chinese originals was Ezra Pound. as Eliot said. Nor do the other translators in English. the examples of Pound and. Segalen.) The number of lines is undefined and only paired lines are rhymed.

are heard. There are other forms : the ci (tz'u). The first alludes to the solitude of the forest. Liu says: again-shine-green. learns that ombres retoume11t. Wang Wei's poem is written in four lines of five syllables each (jue qu). dramatic verse (qu) and the lyric-dramatic (san qu).a rather forced trope-means the rays of the setting sun . Cheng has Ombres retoument dans Ia fore! profonde. the second line rhymes with the fourth. ln order to transmjt the information of the original. That is: the reflection is green. I divided the poem into two pairs: the first line rhymes with the second and the third rhymes with the fourth . Bosque profundo. but unlike the Chinese original I rhymed aU four lines. I left the two first lines of my earlier version intact. Next I decided to omit the verb. s61o se oyen. I also decided to use assonant rhyme. I decided to use a line of nine syllables. I then tried: Traspasa el bosque el sol poniente. The third line.European language. as Spanish allowed the ellipsis.) The first two lines need no explanation. Y. but I radically changed the third and the fourth lines: No se ve gente en este monte.above all.moss-upon. Jejos. The two syntactical blocks (bosque profundo/luz poniente. without actually being. too active. The poem is divided into two parts. Western light:/ it illuminates the moss and. green. James J. rises./ Deep forest. but perhaps too energetic. It seems to me that I succeeded in transmitting the information while conserving the impersonality of the original: the I is implicit. In rus literal version Weinberger 49 . It is the least traditional of our meters and it appears infrequently in Spanish poetry. Luz poniente: alumbra el musgo y.to shineon . Liu translates in similar terms but. (The western sun crosses through the forest. Cheng points out that returning shadow alludes to the western sun. In his literary version Liu writes: The reflected sunlight pierces the deep forest. a truncated hendecasyllable. far-off. through a note at the foot of the page. rises again. only voices are heard). Ruben Darfo-who used it a great deal. The second refers to the apparition of light in a forest clearing and is composed of silently visual sensations: the light breaks through the branches. The reader. according to Fran~ois Cheng. voces. except among the "modernists". asciende. means literally: returni11g shadow-to penetrate-deep-forest.recalls. falls on the moss and. (No people are seen on this mountain. and aural rather than visual sensations predominate (no one is seen. poetry written to accompany already existing musical tunes and with lines of unequal length.) But the poet does not speak of foliage but rather of the forest. (The western sun crosses the foliage. 1 chose this meter not only because of its greater amplitude but also because it appeared to be. in certain respects. And why shadows and not light or brightness or something similar? I wavered a great deal about translating this line./ only voices. First I wrote: Cruza e/ follaje el sol poniente. says reflected light in place of returning shadow. with greater propriety. verde. in a manner of speaking. classical quantitative versificationalthough the rhythm does not come from the combination of short and long syllables but rather from the alternation of tones. According to Cheng the last line means: still. deep forest/western light) preserved the impersonality of the original and at the same time alluded to the silent ray of light crossing through the overgrowth.) Somewhat better. while attempting to recreate the poem in Spanish.green-moss. I will spare the reader the chart of the various combinations (two for the five syllable Jines and two for the seven). Attentive to this sensual and spiritual division. Every Chinese poem offers a true counterpoint that cannot be reproduced in any Indo.

.. charging me with nothing less than "crimes against Chinese poetry. yet philologically correct. brightness) and the spiritual (to illuminate understanding).treed grove Once more to glowlight the blue.Octavio Paz After the publication of these commentaries in the Mexican magazine Vuelta." The cryptic reference. the strangest of the many Weis. . a series of essays privately published by Prof. I later discovered. Peter A.W.. the editors received a furious letter from a professor at the Colegio de Mexico. First: the western light illuminates the moss. the solitude of the mountain and the forest is this world in which there is nobody really. and the clearing in the forest illuminated by the silent ray of light is the one who meditates and contemplates." is 1 Y2 pages long and is devoted to excoriating. sltang (which now means above. Boodberg ends his "cedule" with his own version of the poem. This usage apparently dropped out of the language centuries ago.green mosses. and I am grateful to the furious professor for sending me in search of this. T he light of the western sun refers to the point of the horizon ruled by the Amida Buddha .going up (The empty mountain . And antistrophic lights-and -shadows incoming deeper the deep. Without trying to pin down the floating game of analogies. the cardinal point of the Amida Buddha. light. Second: I say that the green reflection ascends or rises because I want to accentuate the spiritual character of the scene.green/blue/black . was to Cedules from a Berkeley Workshop in Asiatic Philology. which he calls "a still inadequate." Among those criminal acts was the "curious neglect" of "Boodberg's cedule.because the verb illuminate contains both the physical aspect of the phenomenon (shining. in tuitively divined this forgotten meaning and translated the word as asciende. on {top of}.to shine/to reflect . But for those who doubt the accuracy of poetry translated by poets rather than scholars.in place of reflecting it or shining on it . top) had an alternate meaning in the Tang dynasty: to rise. all other translators and scholars of Wang Wei for failing to realize that the last word of the poem. Boodberg in 1954 and 1955. In two places my version departs from the others.Land. rendition of the stanza (with due attention to graphosyntactic overtones and enjambment)": The empty mountain: to see no men. though we hear the echoes of voices. clarity. in his latest version of the poem. The relevant essay. 51 -E. Barely earminded of men talking-countertones. one might say that the western s un is the spiritual light of the paradise of the West.Postscript includes all of the possibilities: to refurnlaKain .moss/1ichen-abovelon(top of )/top. " Philology in Translation. in idiosyncratic Jan· guage.. it should be noted that Octavio Paz. ) To me this sounds like Gerard Manley Hopkins on LSD.

W. Tuttle. 1962. Rutland. Margoulies. trans. Further Poems of the Tang Dynasty. by Wai-lim Yip.B. New York: Munshinsha/Grossman. 1977. Anthologie Rnisonee de Ia Litterature Chi noise. 1970. Hiding the Universe. 1971. 1960. Fall 1978. Soame. Harmondsworth.pb. Fran~ois. 4. trans. Rexroth. & Tokyo: Charles E. 1948.J. C. 1974. No. Wang Wei. London: John Murray. 1977. . Journal for the Protection of All Beings.] Fletcher. by Donald A. Paris: Editions du Seuil. Octavio.: Charles E. Rutland. 1982. Jenyns. William. Paz. G. Vt. Gems of Chinese Verse.. Chinese Literature. Mexico City: Joaquin Mortiz. Witter & Kiang Kang-hu. trans. Versimres y Diversiones. Gary. New York: Columbia University Press. Chinese Lyricism. 1973. Cheng. The Jade Mountain. Vol /1: Nature Poetry.K. Robinson. Chang.Sources Bynner. & Michael Bullock. H. L'ecriture poetique chinoise. by Chang Yin-nan & Lewis Walmsley. Liu. Love and the Turning Year. 1974 (revised edition. Tuttle. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Snyder. 1958. U. New York: Alfred A. Burton. Poems of Wang Wei. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1929. James J. New York: New Directions.J. The Art of Chinese Poetry. Wang Wei. Seaton . 1919. ruggs &Jerome P. New York: Columbia University Press. Watson. [English translation: Chinese Poetic Writing. Tuttle. Vt.: Penguin Books. Knopf. McNaughton. Shanghai: n. Chinese Literature. Poems of Solitude. Chen.Y. 1944. 1978). Kenneth. G. Vt. C. W.l. 1972. Paris: Payot. Rutland. & Tokyo: Charles E. Poems.

Seaton translation of Franc01s Cheng.W. Copyright © 1982 by the Indiana University Press..j. Copyright © 1960 by jerome Chen & Michael Bullock. Wai -lim Yip: for his translation. for the Donald A. New Directions: for the Kenneth Rexroth translation. and for the William McNaughton translation. Robinson Gary Snyder: for his translation. C. University of Ch1cago Press: for the james J.W. Farrar Straus & Giroux: for the Witter Bynner & Kiang Kang Hu translation. C. Chen & Michael Bullock translation. Chang. for the Francois Cheng translation. Copyright © 1977 by Editions du Seuil. Copyright © 1974. Chang translation.Y. Copyright © 1978 by Gary Snyder Charles E. Indiana University Press. Copyright © 1970 by Kenneth Rexroth. Robinson translation. .: for the C. Copyright ©japan 1974 by Charles Tuttle.For permission to reprint copyrighted material. Octavio Paz: for his translations. Liu. Boodberg translation. Copyright © 1973 by G. Riggs & Jerome P. Copyright© 1972 by the Columbia University Press and for the H. 1978 by Octavia Paz Penguin Books: for the G. University of California Press: for the Peter A. Copyright © 1978 by the Witter Bynner Foundation. Copyright © 1977 by H. Tuttle Co. Columbia University Press: for the Burton Watson translation. Copyright © 1979 by The Regents of the University of California. Liu translation. Copyright © 1962 by james J. Copyright © 1972 byWai -lim Yip. the authors are indebted to the following: Georges Borchardt Inc. Y.