Selections from the Works of Su Tung-P'o. Translated into English with Introduction, Notes, and Commentaries by Cyril Drummond Le Gros Clark and Wood-engravings by Averil Salmond Le Gros Clark. London: Jonathan Cape, Ltd. 1931. P. 180. 1£ . Is.
This book contains nineteen ' prose-poems selected and translated from the works of Su Tung-P'o, the great poet of the Sung Dynasty. In the original, they belong to different literary genres, some of them being "赋", and others being "记"; this distinction, however, is lost through translation. Most of Su's popular pieces such as " The Red Cliff', ' The Pavilion to Glad Rain " , " The Wily Rat", etc. are translated together with some of his sorriest stuffs like "Medlar and Chrysanthemum" «服胡麻赋» which, in my opinion, should be left severely alone . Chinese readers (who are presumably acquainted with these pieces in the original) will not, perhaps, "experience such feeling of glad surprise that came to Keats on first opening Chapman's 'Homer'" as Mr. E. C. Werner enthusiastically assures them in the Foreword—but how much I for one should like to unlearn my Chinese in order to "experience" it!
It is idle to contend with Mr. Werner with his theory of the trans-
latability of Chinese poetry into English prose (!) that this translation fails to give the reader any idea of Su's style—a contention so self-evident as to be hardly worth the making. Su's playfulness becomes almost elephantine in the translation, and his philosophisings read so pontifical in English. I mention these not to question Mr. Le Gros Clark's ability as a translator, but simply to put a spoke upon the wheel of Mr. Werner's enthusiasm. The translation is exceedingly readable. It is neither cumbersome with baggage as the latest English translation of Chu Yuan nor turgid with finesse as some of the rhymed versions of the Tang poets. It is very close to the original but not free from errors. For example, the phrase bright moon in Raising my wine-cup, I asked my friend to recite a poem to the bright moon, singing the verses of the Chaste Maiden" (p. 47) refers also to a poem and should be italicized. Mr. Le Gros Clark has also missed the full import of the sentence "秋冬雪月千里一色" in The Pavilion of Flying Cranes (cf p. 65). Again, the translation of "苏子" and "东坡居士" au pied de la lettre into "the son of Su" and "Tung-P'o, the retired scholar" is inaccurate. Lapses like these need not be enumerated because they are negligible. The Commenteries and Notes at the end of the book are never meddlesome, but the Introduction is highly inadequate: for instance, in the section on the "Cultural Background", much space is taken up by an account of historians and chroniclers who had nothing to do with Su, and the literati who founded the "Sung shih" (宋诗) tradition might have never existed for all the mention accorded to them. Both Mr. Le Gros Clark and Mr. Werner seem to consider Su a tippler, whereas we have on record his personal statement to the contrary (cf: "书东皋子传后"), Su is rather a gourmet. "Wine-cup is a mere Chinese poetic diction, and like all poetic dictions, should not be taken too literally.
The charm of this book is much enhanced by the beautiful woodengravings and tail-pieces of Mrs. Le Gros Clark. They so ingeniously reproduce the spirit of Su's "prose-poems" in a different medium that to praise them is better than to criticize them, and to look at them is better than otherwise.