This is a translation and annotation of the poem 涼州詞 (Liángzhōu Cí), by the Tang dynasty poet 王翰 (Wang Han). The poem is #303 in the collection 300 Tang Poems, and is also known by its first line: 葡萄美酒夜光杯 (Pútáo Měijiǔ Yèguāngbēi). Sometimes this poem is seen with the title 凉州曲.
[Liang] [Zhou] [lyrics]
Pútáo měijiǔ yèguāngbēi,
[grape] [fine] [wine] [night] [light] [cup]
Fine wine in a luminous glass;
yù yǐn pípá mǎshàng cuī.
[want] [drink] [pi] [pa] [horse] [on] [urge forward]
one wants to drink but the mounted pipa player orders us onwards.
Zuì wò shāchǎng jūn mò xiào,
[drunk] [crouch] [sand] [field] [sir] [do not] [laugh]
If we are drunk, crouching on the battlefield, do not laugh;
Gǔlái zhēngzhàn jǐ rén huí?
[old] [since] [campaign] [battle] [how many] [man] [return]
since old times, how many men return from war?
If you notice a mistake or disagree with the translation, please comment below to improve this resource. You might want to have a read of this, as well.
夜光杯 are a specialty of Gansu province, the location of Liangzhou. The name is translated above as ‘a luminous glass’, but could also be ‘a glass of light’ or more literally ‘a glass that glows at night’.
The translation of the second line is pretty clumsy, but as with all translations here the intention is to make the poem clear and accessible to students, not to produce an elegant equivalent in English. There are links to more poetic translations below.
The pipa was used to give orders on the battlefield, in much the same way bugles and drums were used in Europe for this purpose.
沙場 is literally ‘sandpit’ or ‘foxhole’, but refers to the battlefield in general.
Source: 凉州曲 – 百度百科
- 300 Tang Poems (Waters, Farman, Lunde)
- Fifty Five T’ang Poems (Hugh M. Stimson)
- Poems of the Late T’ang (A. C. Graham)
- Translation of 涼州詞 into English by 黃宏發
- Translation of 涼州詞 into English by 曾培慈