作者：杜甫 （Author: Du Fu, 8th century)
江 汉 思 归 客 Jiang Han feel return guest
乾 坤 一 腐 儒。heaven earth one pedantic scholar
片 云 天 共 远 piece cloud sky together distant
永 夜 月 同 孤。long night moon together alone
落 日 心 犹 壮 fall sun heart still strong
秋 风 病 欲 苏。autumn wind illness will revive
古 来 存 老 马 old come keep old horse
不 必 取 长 途 not need use long trip
Where the Han and Yangtze meet: a homesick traveler.
Between Heaven and Earth: a quibbling scholar,
I become one with a scrap of cloud in the distant sky.
I am alone with the moon in the endless night.
The sun sets, but my heart remains ambitious.
The autumn wind blows, but I will recover from my illness.
From ancient times, old horses were kept
Because they were the ones who knew the way home.
While we are satisfied that we’ve come up with a reasonable translation, we did take liberties with the original and think that this is a poem that could yield many very different and equally valid translations. In lines three and four, the “I” is implied, and the verb tense is unspecified. We used the present tense because it gives greater immediacy, and we chose the words “I become” to give the lines a sense of vigor and personal agency, which we thought was important because the poem ends on a triumphant note.
The last two lines refer to a Chinese legend. In around 650 BC, Duke Huan of Qi, a famous ruler during China’s Spring and Autumn period, initiated an expedition against the State of Gu Zhu. The war between the two States didn’t end until winter time. On their way back home, the Duke’s army lost their way. Guan Zhong, Duke Huan’s long-time advisor, offered a suggestion that old horses in the army are wise animals who could know the way back home. Following Guan’s advice, the Duke let a couple old horses lead in front, with his armies following behind. Eventually they managed to find their way back home. If we had translated the poem more literally, an American might have understood it to be saying that old horses were kept even though they are not particularly needed, not that they were valuable for their wisdom. One of us is a bit of an old horse herself and vigorously objected to giving the impression that charity might be the only reason for keeping an old nag around.