Cui Tu – Thoughts on New Year’s Eve

Emishan

Mount Emei (峨嵋山, 아미산) in Sichuan Province (四川省, 사천성) (Source)

Cui Tu (崔塗, 최도, 854-?) was a poet and late Tang dynasty (唐, 당, 618-907) bureaucrat. He was born in Jiangnan (江南, 강남); his courtesy name was Lishan (禮山, 예산). In 888, he passed the civil service examination and attained a bureaucratic position, but not much is known about his time in government. During the latter years of his life, he wandered about various regions across China and composed poetry about his travels and hardships. Cui Tu’s poems were renowned and two of his poems were selected for the anthology, Three Hundred Tang Poems (唐詩三百首, 당시삼백수), one of the most popular historical anthologies of Classical Chinese poetry. One of these two records his thoughts just before the Lunar New Year, which falls on February 19 this year.

除夜有懷 제야유회

Thoughts on New Year’s Eve

迢遞三巴路 초체삼파로
羈危萬里身 기위만리신
亂山殘雪夜 란산잔설야
孤獨異鄕人 고독이향인
漸與骨肉遠 점여골육원
轉於僮僕親 전어동복친
那堪止漂泊 나감지표박
明日歲華新 명일세화신

Steep and winding are the trails of Sanba (三巴, 삼파);
Strange and perilous it is to the body that has traveled ten thousand Li (里, 리).
Amid the rumpled mountains covered by snow, during nightfall,
An isolated and lonely man of a different hometown.
Gradually, he becomes distant from his bone and flesh;
Repeatedly, he is close with his attendants and servants.
How can one endure to putting an end to his wandering and lodging?
Tomorrow, the year shall be new.

Definitions:

Steep • winding • three • Ba state • road
Visitor • dangerous • ten thousand • Li • body
Disorderly • mountains • to remain • snow • night
Isolated • alone • different • village • man
Gradually • with • bone • flesh • distant
Repeatedly • to • servant • servant • close
How • endure • to stop • to float • to lodge
Next •  day •  year •  bright •  new

Notes:

  • Pentasyllabic regulated poem (五言律詩, 오언율시). Riming character (韻, 운) is 眞(진).
  • 三巴(삼파) – An old name for the region around modern day Chongqing (重慶, 중경) in Sichuan Province. It refers to the old Ba state (巴, 파, ?-316BC) that ruled the area during the Warring States Period (戰國時代, 전국시대).
  • 里(리) – A natural unit of measuring distances. One li was originally 360 paces (步, 보). During the Tang Dynasty period, one Li was approximately 323 meters.
  • Korean translations available here.
13 comments
  1. I would translate the last line (明日歲華新) “Tomorrow the year shall be new”, or something to that extent. Given the rather melancholy tone of the rest of the poem, I think translating the final line as “Tomorrow the year will be splendid and new” makes it sound as though the poem ends on a tone of hope, whereas I think the final line is simply a tired realization or an indifferent observation that another year has passed. I’m understanding this pentasyllabic line to be divided thus: (明日) tomorrow (歲華) year (新) instead of translating 華新 as two separate adjectives.

    歲華

    1.時光,年華。 南朝 梁 沉約 《卻東西門行》:“歲華委徂貌,年霜移暮髮。” 后蜀 毛熙震 《何滿子》詞:“寂寞芳菲暗度,歲華如箭堪驚。” 宋 梅堯臣 《次韻任屯田感予飛內翰舊詩》:“歲華荏苒都如昨,世事升沉亦苦多。” 郭沫若 《井岡山巡禮·登贛州城內八境台》詩:“三江日夜流,八境歲華遒。”

    2.猶歲時。 南朝 齊 謝朓 《休沐重還道中》詩:“歲華春有酒,初服偃郊扉。” 唐 白居易 《答尉遲少監水閣重宴》詩:“人情依舊歲華新,今日重招往日賓。” 宋 范成大 《立秋》詩:“歲華過半休惆悵,且對西風賀立秋。”參見“ 歲時 ”。

    3.泛指草木。因其一年一枯榮,故謂。 唐 陳子昂 《感遇》詩之二:“歲華盡搖落,芳意竟何成!” 宋 王安石 《絕句》之六:“不是春風巧,何緣有歲華。”

    • 歸源 said:

      Did not realize that 歲華 had that definition. It checks on the Korean Hanja dictionary too. I have made the change accordingly.

      • It’s pretty common for the 3rd and 4th character in a 5 syllable line to be a two-character combination (the same is true for the 5th and 6th character in a 7 syllable line). When I’m dealing with a poem for which I don’t have a reliable Vietnamese or English translation, I often search 漢典 (zdic.net) and 辭源 just to make sure I’m not translating 2-character expressions as two separate characters.

  2. S Li. said:

    I thought the New Year was on the 19th this year.

    • 歸源 said:

      Thanks for the correction. It’s a public holiday in Korea from 18th onward, so had the dates confused.

  3. riroriro said:

    Some personal interpretations

    _ 迢遰 = far away , contact lost
    _ weary is the stranger ‘s body after 10000 li trip
    _ 殘雪 = remaining snow

    殘雪/ 夜 = there should be no linkage snow and nightfall

    _ rumpled mountains / remaining snow / nightfall

    _骨肉 = closest relatives
    _ as he gradually gets afar from his dearest kin

    _ he transfers ( feelings towards ) his attendants
    _ 止 equivalent here to 於

    _ 漂泊 are linked = drifting from place to place

  4. riroriro said:

    _ in the 7th verse 那堪止漂泊 나감지표박 , I found in 2 diffferent versions of the poem 正 instead of 止 . Both characters ‘ meaning are obscure here , are they to be ignored as ” hollow words ” 虛 字 ?
    _ 殘夜 is a known two-word expression meaning : shortly before daybreak

    • 歸源 said:

      虛字 literally means “hollow words” but refers to “functional words,” i.e., those have primarily a grammatical purpose. I think translating 止 as meaning “to stop” is fine. Using 正 or 止 as a functional word does not make much sense to me, based on how they are used as functional words.

      • riroriro said:

        _ I don’t fall for the translation ” how can one endure to putting an end to….” I would translate simpy by ignoring 正 or 止
        _ in other versions , on the 4th line , instead of 人 , it’s 春

  5. I came back to look for this poem after reading your latest post “Zong Le – Blistering Night.” Why? To relive it’s beauty.

    Thank you for sharing these poems.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: