The Temple by the Stars, translated by Adeline Goh

Against the blissful starry night stands
A temple which can be seen across the lands,
Hundreds of feet high and dangerously tall
It seems as if it is about to fall.

I stand inside the sacred temple,
So close to the stars, and I am careful
Not to make a noise, or I may disturb
Heaven; they may have overheard.

Without making the slightest noise, I reach for the star,
However, it is impossible to touch because it is so far
From me and where I stand
Gazing into the distance across the land.

Against the constellations in the sky
Lives a temple, where the eye
Can see everything across the lands
Right from where the temple stands.

 

When translating 夜宿山寺, my direct transaltion didn’t rhyme or flow very well; to overcome this I decided to slightly tweak the word order and choices, but I had to make sure it didn’t stray too far away from the poem. I also found that it wasn’t very structured, so I decided to repeat the first two lines of the first verse at the end, but slightly altered it. Another decision that I had to make throughout was trying to make the poem my own without changing the meaning or tone of the poem – the poem has a quite soft tone to it, so I had to try and maintain that. In addition, there is also a part about the narrator trying to touch a star, which was a bit of a challenge to try and not only find how to add it so that it flowed, but to also make it rhyme with the other lines and maintain a steady rhythm.

夜宿山寺
危樓高百尺
手可摘星辰
不敢高聲語
恐驚天上人

 

Original poem by Li Bai.