Sonnet 23

by Feng Zhi | trans. Emily Goedde

 

Half a month of steady rain

All you have known since birth

is dank and gloom.

Until the day the clouds suddenly disperse

 

and sunlight soaks the rooms.

I see you in your mother’s mouth

being carried into the sun

to let your lengths,

 

for the first time, receive light and warmth.

When the sun has set,

she carries you back again. You will not

 

remember, but this first curtain lifted

will fill your future yelps;

in the deep night, you will bark out light.

 

接連落了半月的雨 ,

你們自從降生以來 ,

就只知道潮濕陰郁 。

一天雨雲忽然散開 ,

 

太陽光照滿了牆壁 ,

我看見你們的母親

把你們銜到陽光裡 ,

讓你們用你們全身

 

第一次領受光和暖 ,

等到太陽落後,牠又

銜你們回去。你們沒有

 

記憶, 但這一幕經驗

會融入將來的吠聲 ,

你們在深夜吠出光明 。

puppies playing

Author’s note:
Sonnet 23: A few newly born puppies.
Translator’s coda:
From very far away, in the arts and in time, one can reply […] with music by Wagner, the instant that Tristan, to Isolde’s voice, cries out:
What, am I hearing light?—
Jean-Luc Nancy, Listening (trans. Charlotte Mandel)

 

 

***

Feng Zhi (馮至 1905-1993) was a Chinese poet, novelist and essayist as well as highly-acclaimed translator and scholar of German literature, who specialized in Nietzsche, Schiller, Rilke and Goethe. For his work with the German Language, he was awarded the Goethe Medal in 1983. This poem was the 27th and final sonnet from his collection, entitled simply Sonnets 十四行集 from which  Sonnets 27 sonnets written in 1941 while he lived in Kunming, China, which was frequently bombed by the Japanese Airforce.

Emily Goedde has a PhD from the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan and an MFA in literary translation from the University of Iowa. She is a literary translator and teaches at the Community College of Philadelphia.

Lead image (detail): Shen Zhenlin (沈振麟). Spring Garden, Dogs at Play (春園犬戲). Qing Dynasty (清)
Insert image: Artist Unknown (佚名). Painting of Dogs at Play (犬戲圖). Ming Dynasty (明)

Purchase a copy of Emily Goedde’s translation of Feng Zhi’s Sonnet 27, published by harlequin creature in 2018, by clicking here. Your purchase helps to support contributor honorariums.

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