Fishes from a boat on the cold river.
We think that adel’s version is much lovelier than ours and very much has the feeling of an elegant landscape painting. We do not think she took any great liberties by omitting the “thousand” mountains and “ten thousand” trails, as these numbers were really only used as a way of saying “many.” The “not a feather” is a neat way of reproducing a line that says the birds were “absolutely” gone, and “not one soul” is fairly close to the traces of men extinguished.
In the second couplet, however, adel deviates pretty significantly from the original. She omits the grass coat and hat as well as the cold river. Most importantly, She adds the term “drifting” to describe the boat. The grass coat and hat and the cold river may be seen as superfluous since these clothes are what a fisherman would be expected to wear, and if he’s fishing from a boat in the snow, it’s obvious that he is fishing from a cold river. Even so, inclusion of these terms serves to emphasize the man’s inadequate protection from harsh winter weather.
The term “drifting” is not suggested by the original at all. It gives a romantic feeling to the poem, but it might not describe the fisherman. If he has gone out in freezing weather to earn a living or get a meal, he is more likely to be picking his spots carefully rather than to be drifting along. We believe that our more literal translation is harsher, colder, more focused on the fisherman’s plight, than adel’s is. If Du Fu, who was a great champion of the poor, had written the poem, our translation would probably be closer to the poet’s intent. As it is, who can tell? The title, River and Snow, suggests that this is primarily a landscape painting, in which case, Adel’s beautiful translation best captures its true spirit. On the other hand, the poem was written after Liu Zongyuan had been sent into exile, and some scholars have theorized that the persevering fisherman was meant to represent the poet himself. Comparing the two translations helps us to think more deeply about the purpose of the poem.