Friday, January 31, 2014

2014 Year of the Horse

Happy Chinese New Year

Translations from the Chinese – Various Chinese Poets, tr. by Arthur Waley

Both experts and amateurs agree that this collection of Chinese poems is a classic. Waley was among the first to introduce Chinese literature to the West. This book bundles A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (1918) and More Translations from the Chinese (1919). All the major poets such as Li Po and Po Chu-I are represented. Anybody interested in world literature would get much out of this anthology.

Also, I found that after reading these poems I understood Chuang Tzu better. At least, I just wanted to go somewhere and be idle. If you know what I mean, then you’ll like this book.

You had better go where Fate leads
Drift on the Stream of Infinite Flux, Without joy, without fear:
When you must go—then go,
And make as little fuss as you can.

That’s by T’ao Ch’ien, a cool recluse. I don’t know, maybe readers that prefer more hearty poetry may find this backhanded, vague, pointlessly navel-gazing, reticent, slight, neurotically introvert. But for me, for whom poetry is unknown country where I have zero expectations (except that it’ll he hard to understand), maybe middle-age makes this kind of withdrawn, private poetry more appealing, since the topics are reactions to war, loss and grief, separation, illness, politics and vanity (not just love and nature).

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