Thanks to my good friend Jeff from Jeffinous Tang Poetry I have this following CANTONESE poem. Yes you heard it right, it’s a Cantonese poem; in fact this is one of those songs you would sing as a little kid in Cantonese. I’d say it’s similar to how you would recite things such as “I’m a little teapot, short and stout” or “Rain rain go away” or “Ring around the rosie”. This poem, or nursery rhyme if you want to call it that, is singing about what happens when it rains. So picture looking outside your window right now with the rain and try to embody this poem. You’d do the same with an English or Mandarin poem wouldn’t you? Without further ado, here is the poem that I personally translated and romanized in Yale for you guys.
lok6 yu5 daai6, seui2 jam3 gaai1
It’s raining hard, the streets are flooded
a3 go1 daam1 chaai4 seung5 gaai1 maai6
Big brother’s taking firewood up the street to sell
a3 mui6 cheut1 gaai1 jeuk3 fa1 haai4
Little sister’s wearing flowery shoes on the street
fa1 haai4 fa1 mat6 fa1 yiu1 daai2
Flowery shoes, flowery socks, flowery belt
jan1 jyu1 wu4 dip6 leung5 bin1 paai4
Pearl Butterflies on both sides
yau5 chin2 da2 deui3 ling1 lam1 gu2
If you have money, hit some tambourines
mou5 chin2 da2 go3 sek6 lau4 paai4
If you don’t have money, hit some signboards
Some key things to point out is that right from the first line you’d see 落雨 (C: lok6 yu5) and 水浸 (C: seui2 jam2). Let’s break that down for you right now in the three languages.
English: to rain
Cantonese: 落雨 (C: lok6 yu5)
Mandarin: 下雨 (M: xia4 yu3)
English: to flood
Cantonese: 水浸 (C: seui2 jam2)
Mandarin: 水淹 (M: shui3 yan1)
Although you can read the Mandarin words in Cantonese and still have it make sense properly, it loses the essential Cantonese feel to the text. If you speak Cantonese and say 下雨 instead of 落雨, or 水淹 instead of 水浸 most people will just think you speak Mandarin and are doing badly learning Cantonese. So if you want to keep the spirit of Cantonese alive and well, you know what to do .
Now for some more difficult stuff: 鈴琳鼓 (C: ling1 lam1 gu2) I called tambourines also known in Mandarin as 搖鼓 (M: yao2 gu2) but they are more like these in this picture below. Typically only those who have enough would be able to afford one as you can see through the poem. Spin these in the palm of your hand back and forth and the spheres will rattle the drum!
However, as the poem also states, there’s also those who cannot afford such a toy. So what exactly is a 石樓牌 (C: sek6 lau4 paai4)?
Cantonese: 牌樓 (C: paai4 lau4)
Mandarin: 牌坊 (M: pai2 fang1)
These are the memorial arches or gates at the entrance of a city classically. If you don’t have money to rattle your drum, then why not join the rest of the little kids in the city and start rattling on the city sign? (Not saying that was a good thing to do haha)
For in depth reference, check out this video.
Remember, all romanizations are either in Cantonese or Mandarin. Either they’re specifically stated or inferred by the context of the sentence. When in doubt, it’s probably Cantonese.