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WORDs – Yuan Mei’s Ancient Wall
JP Seaton

line b

? ? ? ? ?
word-for-word pass, go by years tree +shade, shade also=Yin cover
          So: passing the years covered by tree shade (remember this is a gloss, not a suggested translation).

Line b is also fundamentally imagistic. There is a time phrase, first, and a phrase ( a whole sentence in Chinese) that locates the “action”, which according to my reading has it’s grammatical subject somewhere outside the line. The line might mean something like, “as the years go by (the corner of the garden wall) has become covered with shade”, but it might be better to wait a little, and see what happens in the rest of the poem before you decide on the “subject” of the poem’s “grammar” so far.  Making up your mind about essentially missing subjects and objects can paint you into a corner as a reader or as a translator, and leave you closed-minded to an obvious solution to the problem the translation of the whole poem poses. For character 4 in the line above, I give special note to the Yin because it’s ( or can be) the Yin of Yin and Yang, powerful words everywhere they appear in the whole culture of classical China…We should keep ourselves open to its influence as the poem goes along. All the shade and darkness in the poem is an embodiment of Yin. How can we show, in translation, the force that a powerful cultural element has in Chinese culture when we bring it across to ours? Can we? Must we? May powerful cultural content vanish in the absence of context? Maybe “sometimes shade is just shade.”

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