I have been learning some Chinese songs to help boost my vocabulary - most recently I learned "当你老了". There are a few lyrics tripping me up, and I only found one English "translation" online (which looks like it is actually a Chinese translation of a poem by William Butler Yeats, which shares the first couple of lines but diverges after that).

These are the full lyrics of the song with my (probably very faulty) translation. I added some 'and's and subjects to try to make what is implied in Chinese clearer in English. The two places I'm having trouble are identified by the question marks:

当你老了,头发白了            When you are old, and your hair is white
睡意昏沉                    And drowsy [??]
当你老了,走不动了            When you are old, and you can't walk
炉火旁打盹回忆青春           Dozing by the fire, remembering your youth

多少人曾爱你青春欢畅的时辰    How many people have loved the delightful moments of your youth
爱慕你的美丽,假意或真心       Loved your beauty, whether insincere or sincere
只有一个人还爱你虔诚的灵魂    Only one person still loves your pious spirit
爱你苍老的脸上的皱纹         Loves the wrinkles on your old face

当你老了,眼眉低垂            When you are old, and your eyebrows droop
灯火昏黄不定                 Lights are dim and indistinct
风吹过来,你的消息            The wind blows over with your news [??]
这就是我心里的歌             This is the song in my heart

当你老了,眼眉低垂            When you are old, and your eyebrows droop
灯火昏黄不定                 Lights are dim and indistinct
当我老了,我真希望            When I am old, I really hope
这首歌是唱给你的             This song is sung for you

First question: In the first verse:


I understand "睡意", but I can't quite follow how "昏沉" fits in there - dict.cn has it as "muddled", so I thought perhaps something like "muddled with drowsiness". The aforementioned translated version has "睡意沉沉" there instead, designed to match "full of sleep" in the poem.

Second question: The other part that is causing me issues is in the second verse:


What would be the best way to translate "消息"? "News" in English is in all the dictionaries, but it seems too mundane for this lovely sentimental song.

p.s. Sorry for the code block, I couldn't figure out another way to make the line breaks stay put.

  • 1
    1.睡意昏沉 deep drowsiness (look up individual characters) 2.风吹过来,你的消息 wind carries tidings about you (your message to me,see answer)
    – user6065
    Sep 21, 2017 at 23:15
  • Oo, I quite like 'tidings'. That is a nice word with the right meaning, thank you!
    – Ajean
    Sep 22, 2017 at 5:04

1 Answer 1

  1. When you have 睡意(wanting to sleep), you would feel 昏沉(drowsy; unable to get everything clear in your mind, and that kind of mood). So, I think the word 'drowsy' can fit here.

  2. Besides 'news', you could also interpret 消息 as 'message', 'information'.

  • So I guess that line is just a bit hard to succinctly translate. That's okay! At least I know :)
    – Ajean
    Sep 22, 2017 at 5:06

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