Sunday, 15 April 2012

Tang Dynasty Poets

Two poets of the golden age of Chinese Poetry appeared on a set of of Poets and Philosopher stamps issued in 1983.  The first is Li Bai (also known as Li Po) born in 701, who had what is described as a "hard living life" which means he liked a drink or two;  any poetry collection of the Tang Dynasty will contain many of his poems.

The painting is a modern one created by Liu Lingcang (1906-1989) who was apprenticed at 14 and and as a young man went to Beijing alone living off the sale of his paintings to follow the masters of his chosen art.  He himself became a great scholar of painting history and painting theories and in in his 70 year art career he spent 40 teaching those skills. It is interesting to see the scroll painting he made of Li Bai which expands the view of the poet and appeared as "Landscape of Tang Poetry"
Next is Du Fu (also known as Tu Fu) 712-770 who is known in China as the "Poet Sage".  But let the words of these poets tell their own story.  They share a page in my copy of Soame Jenyns's (who was keeper of Oriental Antiques in the British Museum) second collection of translations of Poems of the T'ang Dynasty, you will see why he has done this.

"Sending Off A Friend" by Li Po

Looking north of the city you see the line of blue hills,
Sparkling water flows past the eastern gate.
Here we part once for all;
A solitary waterweed drifts off into the distance.
When I think of the wandering clouds you will come back into my thoughts
Sunset will bring with it memories of you.
We part now with a wave of the hand; as we turn our horses they neigh farewell.

"With the width of Heaven between us thinking of Li Po" by Du Fu

A chill wind springs up from the horizon,
What are your thoughts now I wonder?
When will the wild geese arrive?
Rivers and lakes are big with autumn floods
Your literary compositions are a foe to your success,
The ghouls are gleeful when people (like you) pass by
I fear your path corresponds to that of the "aggrieved spirit".
Throw a poem to him in the Mi-lo River.

Legend has it that Li Po died in a most poetic way by falling from his boat when he tried to embrace the moon in the Yangtze River.  The 'aggrieved spirit' reference in the poem Jenyns says is an allusion to Ch'ü Yüan, who committed ritual suicide by holding a rock and wading into  a river, today celebrated by the dragon boat racing festival.

An entry to Virdian Postcard's Sunday Stamps celebration of National Poetry Month.



Lisa B said...

Lovely stamps and poems, I think anyone who is able to translate poetry must also be a poet.

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

Both the stamps are really beautiful, but the second poem sounds odd to me. Something lost in translation, maybe. :)

Little Nell said...

A hard living life - i must remember that! I used to have quite thing about Chinese poetry, reading it in translation of course. I agree that the first poem is lovely, but Sheila is right it doesn't quite gel in the second one - although I like the idea of throwing a poem to him. Lovely stamps too