Person sleep night blissful
Wake up morning painful
Rat gnaw -- little darts of
Pain running inside person leg
Person panic; Lassa fever
fear beginning of wisdom
Person vex huff through nose --
Like motorcar enjoying toke --
Run fast, run go chemist scream:
        Bastard rat, gnawing rat,
        You die; you die today!



I decided to write this because I recently stumbled on a Chinese poem, A Visit to Qiatang Lake in Spring, by Bai Juyi. The stumbling was however deliberate in that I was familiarizing myself with Chinese poetry, or more specifically, translations of Chinese poetry. If you follow the link provided already, you will find that the poem is rendered in character, Pinyin, literal and literary English translations. The literal translation is what piqued my interest because I found it very amusing. Despite the fact that the literal translation requires from you an extra mental exercise for understanding, you find that the essence of the poem is still captured and captured rather humorously. I will reproduce the literal and literary translations here so that you can compare:

Gushan temple north Jiating west
Water surface first flat cloud base low
Several places early orioles fight warm tree
Every house new swallows peck spring mud
Disordered flowers gradually almost confuse person eye
Light grass able hide horse hoof
Most love lake east go not enough
Green poplar shade in white sand causeway (from

And the literary translation:

Gushan Temple is to the north, Jiating pavilion west,
The water’s surface now is calm, the bottom of the clouds low.
In several places, the first orioles are fighting in warm trees,
By every house new swallows peck at spring mud.
Disordered flowers have grown almost enough to confuse the eye,
Bright grass is able now to hide the hooves of horses.
I most love the east of the lake, I cannot come often enough
Within the shade of green poplars on White Sand Embankment. (from
I’m off to dance tai chi.

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