Ancient Wall

Yuan Mei

J.P. Seaton

古   牆


古 牆 庭 院 角

經 歲 樹 陰 遮

幽 絕 無 人 見

青 苔 作 小 花

I did this poem several times with translation classes at the University of North Carolina, often for classes that included students who knew no Chinese, and usually with very good results. Yuan Mei “steals” from Wang Wei’s famous quatrain Dear Park in the last two lines.

You might want to look at the essay, Once More On the Empty Mountain, available here, and at any of the many other translations you can find here and elsewhere on line if you want to try to understand what our poet’s game was.

Of course I’m happy to have anyone read and hopefully learn something from our work here, but what I really hope fervently is that you’ll try to “roll your own” from the word-for-words that are and will be offered here.

If you do want to try translating it yourself, I’d love to see your final draft, as well as any comments on the process of making the translation. If you enjoy translating, or just reading the word for word and comparing it to the translations of others, there will be more “Word-for Words” available here as we go along. Look here every other week or so.

It might be a good idea to copy the word for word below to your word processing program, enlarge the characters and make extra space after the commentary so you can take notes as you read.  Find a way of laying out the material that is comfortable to you, and then work at drafting your translation with a pencil. Or you can print out the last page of this article and work with that.