Nobody interprets a poem exactly the same even in its original language, let alone translating it into another language.  There will always be a certain degree of meaning lost in translation due to the difference in culture, linguistic and metaphysics. 

 

What I attempted to do is to capture the essence of the original verse as much as possible, while trying to maintain a correct, coherent and understandable version of target language. 

  

 *Translated by Elisa English on 4/27/11- 版權所有*

Translated by Elisa English on 4/27/2011 in Minneapolis, 版權所有, 不可轉貼轉載

Here is my translation:

 

〈隋宫〉李商隱

<The Sui Palace>

 

紫泉宮殿鎖煙霞,欲取蕪城作帝家。

玉璽不緣歸日角,錦帆應是到天涯。

於今腐草無瑩火,終古垂楊有暮鴉。

地下若逢陳後主,豈宜重問後庭花。

 

Desolate, the grand Palace locked its magnificence in haze, by the Purple Spring.

While, ravenous, the emperor aimed, in far away Wu, to expand his palace wing.

Sadly, predestined, the emperor’s seal fell in the hands of the Prominent Head.

Otherwise, to the end of the world, the Almighty, his sails could have set.

Now, not a glow of fireflies in this decayed grass.

Instead, at dusk, on the weeping willows the crows amass. 

In the afterworld, should he meet his defeated Late Chen Emperor,

Would he have inquired the infamously prurient song “Courtyard Flowers”?

 

Note:

Here I use “prominent head” as the metaphor for “日角” to illustrate the important person, Tang Emperor, Li Yuan.  Prominent means standing out, jutting or projecting outwards.  Head means greatest authority, leader or chief.  日角:指人的額骨突出飽滿如太陽一樣。這里以日角作為李淵的代稱。(This interpretation is extracted from 周作菊. Please see the link provided above)        

 

I use “the Almighty” to indicate someone with great power, Emperor Yang, whose expeditions expanding to central and southern Vietnam. 

 

I use “weeping willow” to emphasize the gloominess of the desolate scene.

 

Courtyard Flowers is a song written by Emperor Chen which reflected the lustful palace life.  It was said to be one of the factors that drove the fall of Chen Dynasty.

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