Life Of Chinese Poet Examined In Verse
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block. Now we're going back 1,300 years to the Chinese poet Du Fu. American poet David Young has translated many of his poems. Allan Cheuse has this review of the new collection, called "Du Fu: A Life in Poetry."
ALLAN CHEUSE: Du Fu, who lived from 712 A.D. to 770, spent his life making his poems, raising a family, trying to find patronage at the courts of emperors, and sometimes moving back and forth across the Chinese countryside as warring armies advanced or retreated. The record he left of his ambitious apprentice days and inebriated young manhood as a poet taking in the natural world around him is superb. In, for example, a poem about crossing a famous lake near the capital he writes, "As we come to the lake's middle, we see in its dark depths the southern mountains mirrored upside down in the water. Here and there a quiver as if the mountain moved. Maybe our boat will collide with the high mountain temple. Maybe the moon will swim out of the mountain pass."
But as a wife and children come to depend on him, he adds to his wonderful views of nature some worrying lines about politics. "The state goes to ruins," he writes, "but mountains and rivers survive." So the stillness of nature's beautiful moments remains no matter how tumultuous the poet's personal life, even as he and his family make one of their many journeys because of political turmoil in the capital. "We leave at night with carts," he tells us, "overhead, a moon and a wilderness of stars. Here and there, clouds and mist. This universe is enormous. My road goes on and on." As does his work, even into our present day.
BLOCK: The collection is called "Du Fu: A Life in Poetry." Translated and edited by David Young. Our reviewer is Allan Cheuse.
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