Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Conor O'Reilly writes

To Dufu

Dufu, I came to your old home in Chengdu.
But you had left here long ago
Before the bosses sat in Beijing.
Now I wander around these grounds,
Through long halls built for you,
By bamboo growing house high,
As children amuse themselves
In your garden once wild,
And old people try to cool
Within your alcoves of shade.

Dufu, how your home inspired you,
Clear skies look down from above,
Butterflies dance with the flowers
Like paper playing in the wind,
No shrieking from the intruders
To your self-imposed solitude.
If only it were like this today.
 Du Fu.jpg

1 comment:

  1. Du Fu, though initially not well known to other writers, is now frequently called the greatest Chinese poet, hugely influential in both Chinese and Japanese literary culture. Nearly 1500 poems have been preserved, and their range led H. C. Chang to call him "the Chinese Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Shakespeare, Milton, Burns, Wordsworth, Béranger, Hugo or Baudelaire," and Hayashi Shunsai, a notable Japanese Confucian scholar, called him the best poet in history, Matsuo Bashō frequently borrowed Du's language and themes for his own haiku (and a copy of Du's works was among his first possessions when he died). The American poet Kenneth Rexroth described him as "the greatest non-epic, non-dramatic poet who has survived in any language", and commented that, "he has made me a better man, as a moral agent and as a perceiving organism".
    Since the Song dynasty, Chinese scholars have called Du the "poet historian" because of his commentaries on military tactics, the successes and failures of the government, and the poems of advice he wrote to the emperor. He also chronicled the lives of soldiers and civilians as well as his own autobiographical concerns, and wrote extensively on subjects such as domestic life, calligraphy, paintings, animals, and other poems. In addition, he devoted many works to topics which had previously been considered unsuitable for poetic treatment, while mastering all the forms of Chinese poetry: But about 2/3 of his extant work were lǜshi, a type of poem with strict constraints on form and content. The form required strict parallelism, but Du was able to use the formal restrictions as a means to add expressive content. For instance, here is Carolyn Kizer's translation of "Reply to a Friend's Advice":

    Leaving the Audience by the quiet corridors,
    Stately and beautiful, we pass through the Palace gates,

    Turning in different directions: you go to the West
    With the Ministers of State. I, otherwise.

    On my side, the willow-twigs are fragile, greening.
    You are struck by scarlet flowers over there.

    Our separate ways! You write so well, so kindly,
    To caution, in vain, a garrulous old man.


Join the conversation! What is your reaction to the post?