New and Improved Translations of Tang Dynasty Poetry

By Evan Mantyk
Evan Mantyk
Evan Mantyk
Evan Mantyk is an English teacher in New York and President of the Society of Classical Poets.
May 16, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

 

登金陵鳳凰台

李白

鳳凰台上鳳凰遊,鳳去台空江自流。

吳宮花草埋幽徑,晉代衣冠成故丘。

三山半落青天外,一水中分白鷺洲。

總為浮雲能蔽日,長安不見使人愁。

 

Ascending the Phoenix Terrace in Jinling
By Li Bai / Translation by Evan Mantyk and Chunlin Li

Phoenix roamed here four hundred years ago,
A sign of the enchantment that once thrived;
Such emptiness now, no more feathers flow,
A lonely river is all that’s survived.

The lush garden of the grand Wu Palace
Is buried there beneath some nameless brush;
What’s left of the Jin court’s elegance?
Just those mounds of ancient decomposed mush!

The Three Mountains disappear into sky,
Aloof and azure, from whence egrets dive
To a remote river isle, safe and dry,
Two streams of the Yangtze onward strive.

My mind drifts to Chang’an, so far from here
And the Emperor whose fate is unclear;
I’ve heard dark clouds obscure his brilliant sky;
I wish, to his aid, a phoenix would fly.

 

黃鶴樓

崔顥

昔人已乘黃鶴去,此地空餘黃鶴樓。

黃鶴一去不復返,白雲千載空悠悠。

晴川歷歷漢陽樹,芳草萋萋鸚鵡洲。

日暮鄉關何處是,煙波江上使人愁。

 

Yellow Crane Tower
By Cui Hao / Translation by Evan Mantyk and Chunlin Li

A Taoist immortal once left this place,
Riding on the back of a yellow crane.
Lighter than the air, he left not a trace;
Only Yellow Crane Tower does remain.

The yellow crane, once gone, never returned;
One thousand years have flown by without wings.
The listless clouds for company have yearned,
But it’s something empty sky never brings.

Sunshine illumines the trees to the north
Of the Han River’s crystalline water.
From the verdant grass, sweet fragrance pours forth
As parrots on river islands gather.

Shadows from below creep up the tower;
I’ve no crane to ride at this late hour;
Which way leads to my home? I do not know,
O, misty river, I’ve so far to go!

 

Chunlin Li is a professor living in New York.

Evan Mantyk
Evan Mantyk is an English teacher in New York and President of the Society of Classical Poets.