A Graph Review: 50 with highpoint 75
New translations by Arthur Waley.
978 1604190472 Axios Press £6.99 paperback
Published in 2012 with a forward by the editor, Craig R Smith, which briefly introduces the reader to the and poets life and philosphy. The translator’s introduction gives a further, clear picture of the life of Bo Jui and in ten pages beautifully outlines the struggle of the young boy and his difficulties and disappointments through his personal and especially professional highs and lows. The translations we are offered would appear to give a good insight into the emotions and nature of the man. Without knowing, or in my case, able to know, the original writings of these poems we are reliant on the translation and style of Arthur Waley. Additionally are short stories that colour yet more corners of the man. For me there is a continuity of style and clarity of meaning throughout. The varied length and content of the verses and writing carried me along to the end in one sitting.
My knowledge of China’s past is limited and nil of the period of his life (772-846) so it was quite enlightening to read the poems with its vignettes of the period. We see images of his life, his loves and passion for nature and the seasons. Also, as a civil servant, both in esteem and disgrace we can read of his empathy for the people, sympathy for the poor.
A small selection of my favourite poems:
Passing Tian-men Street in Chang’an and Seeing a distant View of Zhongshan-nan Mountain ( unusually the title is almost as long as the poem but gave me both vibrant image and pause for thought)
Since I Lay ill
Especially with this book I would recommend you read it all if the man and his work are new to you. Dipping in after that is well worth it. This book offers some interesting and sometimes provoking imagery via elements of historical facts of living, ageing and loving in a China of over 1200 years ago. Through his words, his pictures, we can see and even feel that his writing and emotion may not be so afar from poets of today or of any period.
Quoting from the last two lines of his ‘Last Poem‘:
‘When this superintendence of trifling affairs is done,
I lie back on my pillows and sleep with my face to the South.’
(towards his birthplace and childhood) throughout the book you see the hankering for the simplisity of his childhood surroundings.
Super value at £6.99 paperback