Review: CHA: AN ASIAN LITERARY JOURNAL, ISSUE 12
2010 November 11
Xu Zhimo’s famous poem, a stanza of which has been memorialized on a monument in the back walk of King’s College, is translated by Clara Hsu in this issue. She takes minor liberties with it, titling the poem “Farewell River Cam” though the original bids farewell to “Cambridge.” But otherwise she adheres closely to the Chinese, quatrain by quatrain. Her major contributions to translations of this poem are tightened language and strong, active verbs. The broken reflection of the rainbow concludes with a wonderful susurrus: “immersed in illusory dreams.” And Hsu’s coinage, “Silence is the wind of parting,” remains faithful to the sense in Chinese while also refreshing our English idiom. All that lacks now for translations of this poem is preservation of rhyme—imperative, I’d argue, since Xu’s purpose was to import Romantic mannerisms to 20th-century Chinese poetry—but until Hsu’s free-verse modernization suffices brilliantly.
by Henry W Leung