One Hundred Poems from the Chinese

One Hundred Poems from the Chinese

One Hundred Poems from the Chinese

One Hundred Poems from the Chinese

Synopsis

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 (713-770)––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 powerful. 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’ing 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.

Excerpt

This book is in two parts. First there are thirty-five poems by Tu Fu. They are based on the text in the Harvard Yenching Concordance to Tu Fu, of which one volume gives the poems themselves. I have taken note of William Hung's prose translations, of Florence Ayscough's literal renderings, and of the German of Erwin von Zach. Over the years I have had many discussions of the poems and my translations with Chinese friends, none of them specialists, notably my friend, C. H. Kwock. However, these translations are my own. In some cases they are very free, in others as exact as possible, depending on how I felt in relation to the particular poem at the time. The freer ones are usually those done long ago. I have had the work of Tu Fu by me since adolescence and over the years have come to know these poems better than most of my own.

The second part is a selection of poetry of the Sung Dynasty, most of it never in English before. Here, where I did not have a Chinese text at hand in the first place, for about half the poems, I usually translated from other Western languages, mostly the French of Soulié de Morant and G. Margouliès. Both of these translations have considerable merit as poetry in their own right. Later I took my translations to the originals and changed them around to suit myself. Again, what has resulted is my own responsibility, sometimes more literal, more often freer, than the Tu Fu renderings. I hope in all cases they are true to the spirit of the originals, and valid English poems.

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