One Hundred Poems from the Chinese (New Directions Books)
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The lyrical world of Chinese poetry in faithful translations by Kenneth Rexroth.
The lyric poetry of Tu Fu ranks with the greatest in all world literature. Across the centuries―Tu Fu lived in the T'ang Dynasty (731-770)―his poems come through to us with an immediacy that is breathtaking in Kenneth Rexroth's English versions. They are as simple as they are profound, as delicate as they are beautiful.
Thirty-five poems by Tu Fu make up the first part of this volume. The translator then moves on to the Sung Dynasty (10th-12th centuries) to give us a number of poets of that period, much of whose work was not previously available in English. Mei Yao Ch'en, Su Tung P'o, Lu Yu, Chu Hsi, Hsu Chao, and the poetesses Li Ch'iang Chao and Chu Shu Chen. There is a general introduction, biographical and explanatory notes on the poets and poems, and a bibliography of other translations of Chinese poetry.
drops. The peach trees are in blossom Over my room, here by the Still lake that mirrors the hills. I no longer have the strength To finish this letter and Wrap it in cloth of gold. When You receive it, everything Will be over forever. LU YU XCIV LEAVING THE MONASTERY EARLY IN THE MORNING In bed, asleep, I dream I am a butterfly. A crowing cock wakes me Like a blow. The sun rises Between foggy mountains. Mist hides the distant crags. My long retreat is over. My worries begin
poems of advice to the throne. Most of these are the expected thing, full of wisdom as a Papal Christmas message, but in time he seems to have learned. Almost alone of his class, at the end of his days he came to hope for a united Chinese commonwealth, under a somewhat less pretentious, or, like the British, more etherialized, cult of the throne. I have not translated any of these poems. Others have done them well. They would require too much explanation. However well-intentioned, they savor of
will laugh at me. Still, You say it would be a good Idea. There’s not much pleasure In a sour stomach and Bad breath. I really know that I Ought to stop. If I don’t do it, I don’t know what will happen to me. MEI YAO CH’EN XLIX IN THE EVENING I WALK BY THE RIVER The frozen river is drifted deep will snow. For days, only a few spots near the bank have stayed open. In the evening when everyone has gone home, The cormorants roost on the boats of the fishermen. OU YANG HSIU L
again. When a year has gone, how will you ever find it again? I wonder where it has gone, this year that is ended? Certainly someplace far beyond the horizon. It is gone like a river which flows to the East, And empties into the sea without hope of return. My neighbors on the left are heating wine. On the right they are roasting a fat pig. They will have one day of joy As recompense for a whole year of trouble. We leave the bygone year without regret. Will we leave so carelessly the
drained and broken The cup of Spring. Flower shadows lie heavy On the translucent curtains. The full, transparent moon Rises in the orange twilight. Three times in two years My lord has gone away to the East. Today he returns. And my joy is already Greater than the Spring. LI CH’ING CHAO LXXXVII QUAIL SKY The icy sun rises silently Across the closed window. The Autumn leaves are falling fast After last night’s black frost. A little wine makes the return To tea more enjoyable.