April 17, 2013

NPM 2013 - Q is for Qi

I've read a lot of haiku over the years but very little (well; none at all!) of Chinese poetry from the Tang dynasty and other periods of Chinese history over the last two millennia and more. But in trying to find a poet with a last name starting with Q, I found Li Qi, Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty, a period known for its poetry.

 "Quatrain on Heavenly Mountain" by Emperor Gaozong

But given the vast amount of poetry from China that is out there, instead of focusing on one poet, because his name starts with a certain alphabet (which in fact, spelled a different way, as is common with Chinese names being written in English, may not even be start with a Q), I decided to instead read up a little bit about Chinese poetry through the remainder of this month and got two books from the public library. Studying Chinese poetry can become a life-long endeavor and I do not have the time and bandwidth for it right now but a quick perusal and a basic understanding of poetry should be possible, especially since I have read a lot of literature about haiku and understand its aesthetics. (Remember that Basho was influenced in many ways by Li Po and other Chinese poets of the Tang dynasty.)

Anyways, I randomly picked these 5 poems for today. While reading them keep in mind that a lost is lost in translation and in fact, different translators will translate a given poem in very different ways sometimes.

A Lute Song
by Li Qi

Our host, providing abundant wine to make the night mellow,
Asks his guest from Yangzhou to play for us on the lute.
Toward the moon that whitens the city-wall, black crows are flying,
Frost is on ten thousand trees, and the wind blows through our clothes;
But a copper stove has added its light to that of flowery candles,
And the lute plays The Green Water, and then The Queen of Chu.
Once it has begun to play, there is no other sound:
A spell is on the banquet, while the stars grow thin....
But three hundred miles from here, in Huai, official duties await him,
And so it's farewell, and the road again, under cloudy mountains. 


Facing Snow
by Du Fu
After the battle, many new ghosts cry,
The solitary old man worries and grieves.
Ragged clouds are low amid the dusk,
Snow dances quickly in the whirling wind.
The ladle's cast aside, the cup not green,
The stove still looks as if a fiery red.
To many places, communications are broken,
I sit, but cannot read my books for grief.


Thinking of Li Bai at the End of the Sky by Du Fu

Cold wind rises at the end of the sky,
What thoughts occupy the gentleman's mind?
What time will the wild goose come?
The rivers and lakes are full of autumn's waters.
Literature and worldly success are opposed,
Demons exult in human failure.
Talk together with the hated poet,
Throw a poem into Miluo river. 

Waking from Drunken Sleep on a Spring Day by Li Po
Life is a dream. No need to stir.
Remembering this I’m drunk all day.
Lying helpless beside the porch,
Waking to see the deep garden.
One bird calls among the flowers.
Ask myself what’s the season?
Song of the oriole in Spring breezes,
Voice of beauty sadly moves me.
Is there wine? Ah, fill the cup.
Sing and watch the white moon rise,
until song’s end and sense is gone.

The Solitude of Night
by Li Po
Translated By Shigeyoshi Obata

It was at a wine party—
I lay in a drowse, knowing it not.
The blown flowers fell and filled my lap.
When I arose, still drunken,
The birds had all gone to their nests,
And there remained but few of my comrades.
I went along the river—alone in the moonlight.

You can also try to peruse through this archive of 300 Tang dynasty poems or read a few here. I am sure there are many other resources online to study Chinese poetry, from the ancient to contemporary.

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