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Say It Right Series

a line from a song that I cannot parse

Posted by remorseful_prober July 24, 2010 in the Group General Discussion.

have been translating old mandarin songs for a while-  memorizing them afterwards is fun and somewhat helpful.  Lately did the "Four Season Song" or "四季歌".  I've got a very rough translation wrapped up save for one line that is mighty mysterious.  The meaning lies somewhere outside the actual lyrics-  it's an allusion to something, perhaps from the movie from whence it comes: "馬路天使".  I took a wild stab at it after consulting with a couple of Taiwanese friends, but I'm likely at least partly wrong.  here are the lyrics with the line in question bolded:

 

春季到來綠滿窗

chūnjì dàolái lù mǎn chuāng

Spring has arrived and the world outside the window is green

大姑娘窗下繡鴛鴦

dà gū'niáng chuāng xià xiù yuānyāng

Big sister is embroidering a cloth with Mandarin ducks*

忽然一陣無情棒

hūrán yīzhèn wú qíng bàng

Suddenly a loveless blow strikes

打得鴛鴦各一方

dǎ de dé yuānyāng gè yīfāng

and forces the ducks to separate sides.

夏季到來柳絲長

xiàjì dàolái liǔsī cháng

Summer has arrived; the the tendrils of the willow are long 

大姑娘飄泊到長江

dà gū'niáng piāobó dào chángjiāng

Big sister drifts along to the Yangtze River

江南江北風光好

jiāng nán jiāng běi fōngguāng hǎo

Toward the south and to the north of the river, the scenery is beautiful

怎及青紗起高梁

zěn jí qīng shā qǐ gāo liáng

But how can it compare to the drinks shared behind the blue curtain?

秋季到來荷花香

qiūjì dàolái héhuā xiāng

Autumn has arrived; the lotus flowers are fragrant

大姑娘夜夜夢家鄉

dà gū'niáng yèyè mèng jiāxiāng

Big sister dreams of home each night

醒來不見爹娘面

xǐnglái bú jiàn diēniáng miàn

But when she awakens she cannot see her parents’ faces

只見窗前明月光

zhǐ jiàn chuāng qián míng yuè guāng

She sees only the bright moon outside her window.

冬季到來雪茫茫

dōngjì dàolái xuè mángmáng

Winter has arrived; the snow is boundless

寒衣做好送情郎

hányī zuò hǎo sòng qíng láng

She has made winter clothes and given them to her lover

血肉築出長城長

xiěròu zhú chū chángchéng cháng

It is flesh and blood that built up the length of the Great Wall

儂願做當年小孟姜

nóng yuàn zuò dāngnián xiǎo mèng jiāng

I wish I could be like Meng Jiangnu of years past**

 

*Mandarin Ducks are a common symbol of lovers in Chinese song

 

* *Meng Jiangnu’s husband was conscripted to work on the Great Wall on the day of his wedding.   When he did not return, his wife went to look for him and found he had died and was buried in the wall, whence she began a weeping that caused a section of the wall to collapse.  The emperor was angry and had her brought before him; but rather than execute her, he became bewitched by her beauty and made plans to marry her.  She threw herself into the sea to escape marriage to the man she held responsible for her husband’s death.   Anyway, this line means that our heroine is distraught.

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