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Li Po and Tu Fu: Poems Selected and…

Li Po and Tu Fu: Poems Selected and Translated with an Introduction and…

by Arthur Cooper (Editor), Du Fu (Contributor), Li Bo (Contributor)

Other authors: Arthur Cooper (Translator), Shui Chien-tung (Calligrapher)

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272259,308 (3.85)5



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Beautiful stuff, elegant in its simplicity. Read them slowly and savor them, and have a little wine while doing so. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
“Great men have a curious way of appearing in complementary pairs” – Kenneth Clark.

Li Po, perhaps better known as Li Bai, and Tu Fu, whose name is better Romanized as Du Fu, were two great poets of the Tang Dynasty in 8th century China.

Li Po was a rebel against conformity, a wanderer fond of wine and of spontaneous revelry in the moonlight. There is both an imagination and a loneliness to his work. Tu Fu was a traditionalist but also an innovator; his poetry has both the honesty and the subtlety often found in great art.

Tu Fu was clearly the “yang” to Li Po’s “yin”; Tu Fu the Confucian and Li Po theTaoist. The two met and respected one another, and in fact Tu Fu idolized the older poet.

One has to read the poems slowly and without distraction to be rewarded. Chinese is not a flowery language to begin with and I believe there is a bit lost in translation. Furthermore the translations in this edition are a bit dated and I’ve seen better in a collection from Whincup, which I’ll review later.

However, the overall ‘feel’ of this book is very nice – informative introduction, nice notes on the poems, and occasionally poems printed in both English and Chinese. It’s a great introduction to two great poets.

I extract three poems that resonated with me when I first read them long ago, and which still do as I read them today.

Quiet Night Thoughts (Li Po)
Before my bed
there is bright moonlight
So that is seems
like frost on the ground:

Lifting my head
I watch the bright moon,
Lowering my head,
I dream that I’m home.

Longing (Li Po)
Sunlight begins to fade,
mist fills the flowers,
The moon as white as silk
weeps and cannot sleep,

Chao zither’s Phoenix frets
no more shall I touch,
Shu lute’s Mandarin Duck strings
I’ll sound instead:

This song has a meaning
that no one can tell,
It follows the Spring wind
as far as Yen-jan

To you far, far away
beyond the blue sky –

Whom once I gave
A sideways glance
With eyes that now
Are wells of tears –

If you do not believe
that my heart breaks,
Come back and look with me
into this glass!

Nine Thoughts Afloat (Tu Fu)
By bent grasses
in a gentle wind
Under straight mast
I’m alone tonight,

And the stars hang
above the broad plain
But moon’s afloat
in this Great River:

Oh, where’s my name
among the poet’s?
Official rank?
‘Retired for ill-health.’

Drifting, drifting,
what am I more than
A single gull
Between sky and earth? ( )
1 vote gbill | Jul 29, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cooper, ArthurEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Du FuContributormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Li BoContributormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Arthur CooperTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shui Chien-tungCalligraphersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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