7/13/2000

Translating Haiku

Translating Haiku

The following is part of a discussion from the Simply Haiku Forum in April 2006.

It started here:

14188 concerning metre

in the flame of my lamp
i see just a hint of wind
on a night of snow


Oshima Ryota Ooshima Ryoota
a contemporary of Yosa Buson
translated by Steven D. Carter

I like the lyricism in this haiku (it's metre).
In writing haiku it is important to remember that we are writing a poem and poems are more than a conglomerate of words, a a snapshot of something..... there needs to be that poetic something, that "umph", as demonstrated by this beautifully written haiku.

robert wilson

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Question from a non-native speaker

do you usually say

on a night
or
in a night


by the way, do you know the Japanese original of this haiku?

Gabi

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

hakikeru ga/ tsui ni wa hakazu/ ochiba kana

"...a hint of wind ON a night of snow" .... normally it would be IN, but the poet didn't use IN ... and I think, and I am only conjecturing here, that it's due to the imagery the poet is painting.... inside the flame in the poet's lamp is a HINT OF WIND layered so to speak, "on top of a night of snow."

robert wilson

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

chibi:

PS... Robert san, I am sorry, but, I did not understand your explanation.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Robert,

Could you give us a chance to learn the original?
Not that one you gave us, about sweeping and fallen leaves by Taigi, but that one with a lamp, wind and snow.

How can we speak about nuanses used by the poet, if we can see only the translation?
As I know Japanese haiku, I am 99% sure, there is neither "on a night of snow" nor "in a night of snow", but just "yoru no yuki" == "snowy night" = "night of snow".
Anything additional is added by the translator, to make the translation a poem in English.
ON ---> the poet is a painter ?
IN ---> the poet is a sculptor ?

Nonsense, it is nothing to do with the poet.

...

after few minutes...

Looking for "yoru no yuki", I have found haiku about snowy night, looking at the light and seeing the wind:

tomoshibi o
mireba kaze ari
yoru no yuki


Oshima Ryota

The last line means just "snowy night" and it depends on the translator how it will be written in English.

Best ragards,
Grzegorz

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Robert,

Reading the original I can see this haiku quite different than the translator and you.
IMHO "hint", "flame" and "on" used/added by the translator in English translation may cause
damages in the reader's mind.

tomoshibi o
mireba kaze ari
yoru no yuki

Oshima Ryota


background for translation:
---------------------------


The most of Japanese lamps are not transparent, so one can see neither the shape of the flame inside nor its moves caused by the wind.

My translation:
---------------

in the light of the lamp
I can see the wind --
snowy night

Oshima Ryota/tr.G.S.

or

in the light of the lamp
I can see the wind
this snowy night


Oshima Ryota/tr.G.S.

for them who accepts haiku looking like one sentence.


My interpretation:
------------------

After L2 I don't know how it is possible, but after L3 and after 3 marvellous seconds ;-) I know everything.
This haiku is not about a flame or a lamp, but about... snowflakes ;-)

They fall like this:

/ / / /
/ / / / / /
/ / / / / /
/ / / /

If they fall like this:

(a row of straight lines, this BLOG does not show)

the poet could see "no wind" ;-)

Best regards,
Grzegorz

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Inochi wa fuuzen no tomoshibi.
Life is a lamp-flame before the wind.

Japanese Proverb

the meaning of * tomoshibi * is really very deep in the Japanese language. It could be the small flame of a rapeseed oil lamp too.

If the poet is inside his home, why would his flame move in the wind?

.......................................... because

to do yukimi, watching the snow fall in winter, you open your paper sliding doors and enjoy it life (and cold...)

there is more to tomoshibi, maybe later ...

> tomoshibi o
> mireba kaze ari
> yoru no yuki
>
> Oshima Ryota
..........

Well, looking at this Japanese, I must say, the translator has added quite a few meanings of his own ... as I thought when reading the English first.

kaze ari ... just a hint of wind ??? no no no
there is wind

yoru no yuki, as Grzegorz pointed out, simply is snowy night, night of snow, snow in the night or something simple.

by introducing ON in the translation, it looks like one sentence spread in three lines, but in the Japanese, we have a cut (kire) after the ARI in line 2, which is not expressed in the translation below.

genbun o
mireba mondai ari
haru no yuki

looking at the original
there is a problem -
snow in spring


Gabi

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Gabi,

I like your interpretation.

You can see the wind both viewing falling snowflakes (the wind outside the house) and observing the moves of the flame (the wind inside the house).

"Tomoshibi" in my Japanese-Russian ;-) dictionary means just "light" of a lamp or smth. like this.

The translator has to decide to use either "light" or "flame" of the lamp. If he use "light", haiku works ithout any explanation even in XXI c. but it loses a part of your interpretation. On the other side "in the flame" doesn't suggest proper "in the light of the flame" and "in the moves of the flame", but "inside the flame" ;-)

The other thing is, there is no ~pure "in" in L1 of this haiku ;-) In the context of the light/ flame/ lamp I can feel this "o" in the original as something like English "in", "due to",...

That is why I always suggest to put the translation together with the oryginal. Translation is just a help.

Gabi,

Looking at your poem of the same construction as Ryoka's haiku, I understand, that the raw translation of Ryoka's haiku is something like this:

looking at the (light/flame) of the lamp,
there is a wind --
snowy night


of course without strong suggestion, that a wind is inside the flame, but it just exists, blows tonight.

Am I right?

Best regards,
Grzegorz

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

looking at the flame
there is wind --
snowy night


that is one possibility.

The wind is not inside the flame or lamp, it is only making itself known trough the flickering of the flame, that is all. I can sense the snow falling gently, this is not a stormy night.

Gabi

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Gabi,

I like your version, however this ruins my attempt at translating and my interpretation ;-)

I think together with such kind of translation, there should be a note added, that Japanese like to observe snow falling, blooming trees, etc., and they open their doors to do it, even at night.

Best regards,
Grzegorz

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

The translator is one of the world's leading translators, Professor Steven D. Carter of Stanford University. I suggest you take this up with. And good luck! His experience is translating is extensive, he speaks fluent Japanese and archaic Japanese, and has an extensive understanding of the culture and linguistics.

Translating isn't as easy as some may think.

I have interviewed Professor Carter. He is an amazing scholar and the author of several highly respected books of translations and discourses. I suggest you become familiar with the translator before you take him to task.

robert wilson

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

> Robert,
>
> I do not know anybody, who thinks it's easy.
> "Impossible" is a better word, I think, but it is possible to know which words are used by the poet, and which are added by the translator.
> Talking about the poet, let us talk about the author, not about the translator.

> Look at the raw translation by Gabi.
> The translation by Carter strongly suggesting the wind inside the flame is only a little part of wide meaning of L2 in Gabi's version.
> Carter's translation without romaji version is completely useful for me, if I want to translate this into Polish, because it seems to be improper in my sense of haiku.
> And Gabi's version is a base for a good translation if someone doesn't like such raw versions.
>
> My request is still actuall - presenting translations add romaji version. Or just say it clearly - let's talk not about the haiku by Ryota, but about haiku by Carter written after reading haiku by Ryota.

> Then I will say no word, because I'm not interested.
>
> Best regards,
> Grzegorz

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

14239 Re: AN APOLOGY by Robert

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

See my article about Kumarajiva, the famous Translator .

If you have a problem with translating Japanese haiku, feel free to contact me.
... Haiku Discussion Forum ...

***************************

Please send me your contributions

To the Daruma Museum Index

To the WHC Worldkigo Database

4 comments:

Shamana said...

snowy night -
only a pale wind
in the flame of my lamp

or:

the flame of my lamp
showing just a hint of wind
this white snowy night

just some adaptations to my english perception...:)

. Gabi Greve said...

Thank you, Nina san, for your contributions!

Gabi

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

robin d gill said...

Gabi, i concur with you and prof carter about the wind sensed in the flame's movement.
I have spent much time with open windows (so cats could come and go) and have felt the preternatural stillness of a night with heavy snow. It seems nothing moves, there is no breeze and yet . . .
The only snow poem that i would put with this fine ku discovers the taste of burnt fish in the poet's moth -- i think it was by seibi.

Gabi Greve said...

Thanks for your comments, Robin san.
We are having quite a bit of WIND right now, whith a cold wave bringing Siberia right to my doorstep! grin ...
GABI