The Song of Changgan / 长干行

I recently did a translation! Bits and pieces of The Song of Changgan / 长干行, by Li Bai (李白)  will appear in Catwoman #37. It’s totally awesome. Thanks to Genevieve for letting me translate, and everyone for buying a copy of Catwoman.

Li Bai (also known as Li Po, don’t panic) was bffs with Du Fu and between the two of them, they wrote basically all the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD) poems you know. About two and a half thousand poems have been attributed between the two of them, so it’s totally okay if you’ve never heard of this one. Wikipedia tells me that “Legend holds that Li drowned when he reached from his boat to grasp the moon’s reflection in the water,” and whether or not that’s true that’s literally the most 盛唐 thing ever.

You can find a preview of this issue over at The Mary Sue; but do yourself a solid and pick it up, because it’s so pretty and I tell you with authority that if you have the same tastes as me, you’re going to love this Catwoman, and this Selina. (I do)

My hair cut straight across my forehead.
I picked flowers, played by the gate.
You came riding on a horse of bamboo,
Around the blue bench, playing with the green plums.
We lived together in Changgan,
The two of us young and without suspicion.
At 14, I was your wife, my shy face not yet open.
I gave in towards the gloomy wall.
Though you called and called, I did not reply.
At 15 I began to smile; I wished our ashes and dirt to be together.
Cherishing, I carried around the words you sent,
I climb the pillar to see you.
At 16, you journeyed far from home,
Through Qutang Gorge and the rapids of Yu.
By May, I wasn’t able to feel;
I heard the sounds of despair.
In front of the door are the footsteps of your delayed departure,
Little by little, the mould grew up and over them.
The moss was thick, it couldn’t be swept away;
The dead leaves of autumn blew in the morning.
In August, the butterflies fell, yellow;
Flew West in pairs to the gardens where grass grows.
The emotions injure me;
Sit and worry about your beautiful old wife.
Sooner or later you will descend through Sanba;
Before then, send a letter home.
We will meet one another, no matter the distance,
All the way to Changfengsha.


 Later: maybe I’ll talk about the process of translating on commission for a comic house.