Li Po and Tu Fu (Penguin, 1973)

Thursday, July 3, 2008



As the back cover says -

"Li Po, a legendary carouser, was an itinerant poet who is unsurpassed in the scope of his fanciful imagination and who soars to sublime heights in his descriptions of natural scenes and powerful emotions. He has been called 'the immortal of poets'. Tu Fu is a more popular poet. His experiences of civil war imbue his work with great compassion and earthy reality, shot through with humor and desolation, as he views everyday life with an artist's insight. Together these two poets of the T'ang dynasty cover the whole spectrum of human life and feeling, and are often appropriately referred to as one poet, 'Li-Tu'."

Li Po and Tu Fu are two of China's greatest poets, and probably the most recognized in the Western world, but picking up a translated book of their poetry cold can lead to confusion for many new readers. This volume by Penguin doesn't contain many actual poems, but serves as a great introduction before reading them, to understand the structure of their poetry and the cultural contexts and references. It also delves in to the relationship between the two. Great starting point for beginners, or for those who have tried these poets in the past but just didn't quite get them.

Posted by St. Drogo at 10:52 AM  

6 comments:

P. 42-43 - "The burden of 'greatness' which history has thrust on Tu Fu has been in some ways too heavy a one; at least for the enjoyment of his character and of his poems by so many who have had to 'do' him at school or by those who have otherwise been led to him in too great awe of his nobility, erudition and perfect versification. The real Tu Fu seems to have been one of the most human, approachable and attractive of great men who have ever lived."

St. Drogo said...
July 12, 2008 at 1:15 PM  

P. 52 - "The Confucian outlook could never accept an 'art for art's sake' theory of poetry but always expected a poem to point to some sort of moral ... or at least somehow or other to make the reader wiser and better."

St. Drogo said...
July 12, 2008 at 1:15 PM  

P. 54 - "Yet, as might be expected of any language with so different a cultural ancestry from ours, a Chinese word may sometimes stand for a group of concepts that we have never thought of associating together, and which we cannot therefore cover with any word of our own"

St. Drogo said...
July 12, 2008 at 1:15 PM  

P. 136 - Li Po, 'Hard Is The Journey' - " At peace I drop a hook / into a brooklet, / At once I'm in a boat / but sailing sunward ... / (Hard is the journey, /
Hard is the Journey, / So many turnings, / And now where am I? / So when a breeze breaks waves / bringing fair weather, / I set a cloud for sails, / cross the blue oceans!"

St. Drogo said...
July 12, 2008 at 1:16 PM  

P. 200 - Tu Fu, 'Nine Short Songs, Wandering Breezes: 5' - "Broken the moon of March, / April approaches / Henceforth how many Springs / Am I to welcome? / No good thinking of things / I've no account of: / Before life's dregs are drained / There's still some glasses!"

St. Drogo said...
July 12, 2008 at 1:16 PM  

P. 237 - Tu Fu, 'Night Thoughts Afloat' - "By bent grasses / in a gentle wind / Under straight mast / I'm alone tonight / ... Drifting, drifting, / what am I more than / A single gull / between sky and earth?"

St. Drogo said...
July 12, 2008 at 1:16 PM  

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