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If We Only Understood poem + Chinese translations

This poem has been attributed to Kipling (吉卜林Jíbǔlín) but the Kipling Society isn't sure. It has been reprinted at various times, sometimes with the two halves in opposite order but the ordering below was used in the 1915 anthology "Poems of Dawn" which is the earliest source I could get my hands on (not to be confused with an 1890 book of similar title that doesn't have this poem). 100 years later (in 2015) I was unable to find a Chinese translation so I made my own in an attempt to help Chinese friends understand the meter, rhyme and sense of the poem.

In 2016 I received a free-verse retranslation from 董爱淑Dǒng Àishū (a Chinese cardiac nurse whom I happened to meet at a bus stop when she visited Cambridge in 2014), and with her permission I'm including that here with minor edits (details below).

If We Only Understood 要是Yàoshi 明白míngbai duō hǎo a 假如Jiǎrú 我们wǒmen 懂得dǒngde (董爱淑Dǒng Àishū)

Could we draw aside the curtains

That surround each other's lives,

See the naked heart and spirit,

Know what spur the action gives---

Often we would find it better,

Purer than we judge we would;

We would love each other better

If we only understood.

遮掩Zhēyǎn 我们wǒmen 互相hùxiāng 生活shēnghuó

那些nàxiē 屏幕píngmù kāi;

看见kànjian 赤身chìshēn 内心nèixīn 精神jīngshén

zhī mǒu 刺激cìjī lìng xíng lái;

时常shícháng 发觉fājué 超过chāoguò 我们wǒmen

指望zhǐwang 意图yìtú duō chún le;

能否néngfǒu 多点duōdiǎn 彼此bǐcǐ 相爱xiāng'ài,

要是yàoshi 明白míngbai duō hǎo a

如果Rúguǒ 我们wǒmen céng 懂得dǒngde,

拉开lākāi 那些nàxiē 遮掩zhēyǎn 我们wǒmen 彼此bǐcǐ 生活shēnghuó de 幕布mùbù,

直视zhíshì 我们wǒmen 内在nèizài de 心声xīnshēng,

huì 发现fāxiàn 那些nàxiē 鞭策biāncè 我们wǒmen 行为xíngwéi de

通常tōngcháng 我们wǒmen 认为rènwéi de 要好yàohǎo,

我们wǒmen 评判píngpàn de yào 纯粹chúncuì

我们wǒmen 彼此间bǐcǐjiān 相爱xiāng'ài

假如jiǎrú 我们wǒmen 懂得dǒngde 这些zhèixiē 道理dàoli

Could we judge all deeds by motives,

See the good and bad within,

Often we would love the sinner

All the while we loathe the sin.

Could we know the powers working

To o'erthrow integrity,

We would judge each other's errors

With more patient charity.

动机dòngjī 审判shěnpàn 行动xíngdòng,

看出kànchū rén de nèi 好坏hǎo-huài,

时常shícháng 甚至shènzhì huì ài 罪人zuìrén

同时tóngshí 憎恶zēngwù zuì 起来qǐlai

如果Rúguǒ 认识rènshi 正在zhèngzài 运行yùnxíng

推翻tuīfān 正直zhèngzhí de 动力dònglì,

yào 更多gèngduō 忍耐rěnnài 心慈xīncí

评判píngpàn 对方duìfāng 错误cuòwù

如果rúguǒ 我们wǒmen yòng 目的mùdì 评判píngpàn 所有suǒyǒu 行为xíngwéi,

评判píngpàn rén de 善良shànliáng 邪恶xié'è,

我们wǒmen 憎恨zēnghèn 所有suǒyǒu de 罪恶zuì'è,

dàn 我们wǒmen cháng 关怀guānhuái 罪人zuìrén

如果Rúguǒ 我们wǒmen néng 知道zhīdao zhè 力量lìliang zài 起作用qǐ zuòyòng 推翻tuīfān 正直zhèngzhí,

我们wǒmen néng yīng yào 更多gèngduō de 忍耐rěnnài 宽容kuānróng,

评判píngpàn 他人tārén de 错误cuòwù

If we knew the cares and trials,

Knew the efforts all in vain,

And the bitter disappointments---

Understood the loss and gain---

Would the grim external roughness

Seem, I wonder, just the same?

Would we help where now we hinder?

Would we pity where we blame?

zhī 对方duìfāng shōu mǒu 考验kǎoyàn,

费力fèilì 关怀guānhuái dōu 徒劳túláo,

吃苦chīkǔ 失望shīwàng dōu néng 了解liǎojiě

赢得yíngdé 损失sǔnshī shì 多少duōshao;

rén de 严厉yánlì 粗糙cūcāo 外面wàimian

仍然réngrán bèi 看做kànzuò 一样yíyàng?

我们Wǒmen 阻碍zǔ'ài 变成biànchéng 帮助bāngzhù?

责备Zébèi 变成biànchéng 同情tóngqíng gǎn?

如果Rúguǒ 我们wǒmen 知道zhīdao 关怀guānhuái 审判shěnpàn,

知道zhīdao 所有suǒyǒu de 努力nǔlì 将是jiāngshì 徒劳túláo de,

结果jiéguǒ shì 那么nàme de 令人lìng rén 失望shīwàng 痛苦tòngkǔ,

懂得dǒngde shī de,

xiǎng外表wàibiǎo 野蛮yěmán zhě 内心nèixīn 是否shìfǒu 也是yě shì 粗鲁cūlǔ de?

我们Wǒmen 是否shìfǒu yào jiāng 如今rújīn suǒ 阻挠zǔnáo de 变成biànchéng 帮助bāngzhù de?

我们Wǒmen 是否shìfǒu yào jiāng xiàn suǒ 责备zébèi de 变为biànwéi 怜悯liánmǐn?

Ah, we judge each other harshly,

Knowing not life's hidden force;

Knowing not the fount of action

Is less turbid at its source.

Seeing not amid the evil

All the golden grains of good,

Oh, we'd love each other better

If we only understood.

哎哟Āiyō! 互相Hùxiāng 恶劣èliè 裁判cáipàn,

gēn rèn huó cáng 影响yǐngxiǎng;

无知wúzhī 发出fāchū 行动xíngdòng 喷泉pēnquán

zhī 源头yuántóu 较小jiàoxiǎo 混乱hùnluàn

看不见Kànbujiàn hēi è 中间zhōngjiān

yǒu duō shàn 颗粒kēlì 金色jīnsè;

我们wǒmen 多点duōdiǎn 彼此bǐcǐ 相爱xiāng'ài,

要是yàoshi 明白míngbai duō hǎo a

A我们Wǒmen 严厉yánlì de 审判shěnpàn 彼此bǐcǐ

知道Zhīdao zhè 并非bìngfēi shì 生活shēnghuó 潜在qiánzài de 力量lìliang,

得知dézhī 并非bìngfēi shì 行为xíngwéi de 源泉yuánquán

shǎo 一些yìxiē 浑浊húnzhuó de 源头yuántóu!

看不见Kànbujiàn 所有suǒyǒu 金色jīnsè 果实guǒshí 中的zhōng de 罪恶zuì'è,

ó我们Wǒmen yīng 彼此间bǐcǐjiān 更加gèngjiā 相爱xiāng'ài,

如果rúguǒ 我们wǒmen céng 懂得dǒngde 这些zhèixiē 道理dàoli

The English poem is now in the public domain.

I believe this poem could be taken as a longer version of a modern aphorism (popular in the computer field) called Hanlon's Razor: ``never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by [human error]''. (Hanlon put it more bluntly as "stupidity" but that doesn't have to be taken at its worst meaning.) As a plausible Hanlon predecessor, "If We Only Understood" doesn't go as far back as Goethe's "Werthers" but it's a nice poem.