embrace the infinite sky

Sun14

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi all! In ancient China, the ideal lifestyle of some people is living like cloud. They adore cloud because they think cloud enjoy unbounded freedom and could change into different form and flout in the infinite sky. Is their the same symbol or idiom in English? if I want to say a person have enough freedom, is it appropriate to say he embrace the infinite sky like cloud? Thank you!
 
  • ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Hullo Sun. Not really, no ~ we give little thought to clouds:( You could say He lives his life as free as a bird, or He's a free spirit. (We're also a lot less poetic than the Chinese:D)
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    If I want to translate a Chinese poem, while its original meaning is cloud. Is it understandable to render it literally as "as free as cloud"?
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    As free as a cloud:):thumbsup:

    There's a very famous English poem which begins:

    I wander'd lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
    When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host of golden daffodils,

    (the whole thing) ~ so if anything they tend to be associated with loneliness rather than freedom in the English (poetic) mind.
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you! I am a little bit confused. Do you mean the cloud is symbolic of loneliness? Again, Is it appropriate for me to use as free as a cloud?
     

    cando

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Thank you! I am a little bit confused. Do you mean the cloud is symbolic of loneliness? Again, Is it appropriate for me to use as free as a cloud?
    I don't think clouds necessarily mean loneliness in English speaking cultures. That poet (Wordsworth) used that image and his poem is famous, but they can be thought of in many ways. Joni Mitchell has a famous song that begins

    "Bows and flows angels hair and ice cream castles in the air, and feather canyons everywhere, I've thought of clouds that way. But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone, so many things I would have done but clouds got in my way. I've looked at clouds from both sides now ..."

    So I think poetry can make use of whatever images the poet wants, either drawing on cultural references or creating new ones. When translating poetry there are different schools of thought, but the current fashion is for staying as literal as possible and letting the reader feel the culture and word game of the original. Saying "free as a cloud" has a clear meaning for me. I did not know about the Chinese mythology you mention, but something of it is revealed and communicated in that phrase that is new to me. A footnote explaining its traditional roots in Chinese culture would deepen that perception, but it is not necessary for my understanding of the line.

    BTW as others have said, be careful with tenses and articles (definite and indefinite) in English. Chinese does not use them, but English becomes confusing or odd to read without them.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    To me too: it's perfectly understandable:thumbsup: (Embrace the infinite sky like a cloud is a lot less understandable, however.)

    What I was trying to convey was the idea that English-speakers don't necessarily associate clouds with freedom. They don't necessarily associate them with loneliness either but ... well, let's put it like this ~

    if you gave an average English-speaker a test of similes in which they had to supply the missing adjectives, like this:
    1. as ___ as a tomato
    2. as ___ as a judge
    3. as ___ as a saint
    4. as ___ as a cloud
    most of them would probably say lonely for number 4, not free.

    Bears are also considered free in English: as free as a bear.
     
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