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While lying in the hospital, I am thinking about 唐詩。 Particularly about this one:

   多情卻似總無情, 
  惟覺樽前笑不成。 
  蠟燭有心還惜別, 
  替人垂淚到天明

I think I can more or less understand it, but I have no idea what 惟覺 means. My incomplete and ugly translation (only for showing I don't come here without trying) is:

Full of, affection, yet appearing unconcerned,
.... Laughter does not come out, in front of the wine cups
Candles, too, have a heart and grieve in parting,
They cry till dusk in people's stead.

Is there a word play with 燈芯?

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I think 無情 is not "unconcerned", especially with the 總 there; more like "as if there had never been anything between us" (好像我們彼此從來沒有過半分戀情)

惟覺 = 只覺,但覺 etc.

It's a little bit like German doch, indicates an attitude, very hard to express in English. a little bit 無奈, perhaps? resigned sorrow; but put that in a translation and its spoiled.

"Now that we're sitting with wine glasses in front of us, I find that I can't even manage a smile." Just a sentence, not poetry.

I agree that 心/芯 is the pun intended. But since wick and heart are not homonyms in English, I'm stuck. A truly tough poem to translate.

  • Thank you. I, too, disliked "unconcerned", but I think I know the precise feeling of the author. The one you have when you appear casual in such circumstances. – Ludi Jul 20 '15 at 12:25
  • Ah, then you do understand the poem. Now just go through that 10, 20 more times and you're ready to translate Du Mu into English; or maybe Byron into Chinese! – wpt Jul 20 '15 at 12:39
  • 過獎了。 My Chinese will never reach that level. I don't even dare translate between my mother tongues . But, thanks to you, I now feel like knowing what 惟覺 was added for, and also a small amount of silly pride for recognising the pun :) :) – Ludi Jul 20 '15 at 12:46
  • I think I sounded very arrogant. What I meant was not "I have a substantial understanding of this poetry ", but "I know such moments in life, where that special feeling arises". – Ludi Jul 20 '15 at 12:57
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    Not at all; and besides, understanding the moment is what makes understanding the poem possible: 詩者,志之所以也,在心為志,發言為詩 – wpt Jul 20 '15 at 15:24
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it means 只覺得- "I just feel unable to be happy even when presented with a drinking glass."

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惟 is auxiliary word, used at start of sentence, to make it read better, especially in a poem or idiom. My own understanding is that it emphasises the sentence a bit as well, since it normally means "only".

覺 means "feel"

First two sentences mean:

Feelings are too strong to express out and it appears there are no feelings

One feels that one can't even make up a smiley face when drinking (at the leaving party)

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Sounds like Leonard Cohen in Chinese! Da du anscheinend im deutschen Krankenhaus weilst, hab' ich es verdeutscht, jedenfalls, versucht!

多情却似总无情,

Sentimental, but seemingly heartless

Sentimental, doch gefühlskalt erscheinend,

惟觉樽前笑不成

only finding solace in the bottle will not do

Trost nur aus der Flasche bringt es nicht,

蜡烛有心还惜别

the candle, considerately, still burns

Die Kerze, rücksichtsvoll, brennt noch,

替人垂泪到天明

substituting my tears till daybreak.

ersetzt meine Tränen bis der Dämmerung.

Gute Besserung! Get well soon! 早日康复!

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惟覺 are two words

惟 is short for 惟有 - only
覺 is short for 感觉 - a feeling

《赠别》- 杜牧
多情却似总无情,唯觉樽前笑不成。
蜡烛有心还惜别,替人垂泪到天明。

My attempt to translate the poem:
Passionate but seems always emotionless.
Even with a goblet in front would not help bring any laughter.
Candle has heart, reluctant to part.
Weeping till dawn - for the separated.

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