Monday, December 19, 2016

Happy Birthday to Su Tung-p’o (aka Su Shi)

Calligraphy by Su Tung-p’o

There is a long list of famous people born today but this Chinese poet's delicate melancholy spoke to me

"Su Shi (also known as Su Tung-p’o) lived in China over 900 years ago during the Sung Dynasty, yet the poems in this collection feel strikingly fresh and contemporary. Burton Watson’s sympathetic translations wonderfully capture the spirit of this humble poet and civil servant whose strength and compassion remained constant through times of both prosperity and adversity. Some of the poems’ recurrent themes include the passage of time as revealed by seasonal change, nights of drinking and conviviality, visits to area temples, and journeys up mountains and down rivers. According to Watson’s informative introduction, Su Tung-p’o’s poems also included more detailed observations of the natural world than are typically found in the poems of his predecessors or contemporaries." (from the blog A Reading Life, link below)

As evening clouds withdraw a clear cool air floods in
the jade wheel passes silently across the Silver River
this life this night has rarely been kind
where will we see this moon next year
(translation by Red Pine)

Mountain Path in Spring by Ma Yuan
Will a moon so bright ever arise again?Drink a cupful of wine and ask of the sky.
I don't know where the palace gate of heaven is,
Or even the year in which tonight slips by.
I want to return riding the whirl-wind! But I
Feel afraid that this heaven of jasper and jade
Lets in the cold, its palaces rear so high.
I shall get up and dance with my own shadow.
From life endured among men how far a cry!

Round the red pavilion
Slanting through the lattices
Onto every wakeful eye,
Moon, why should you bear a grudge, O why
Insist in time of separation so th fill the sky?
Men know joy and sorow, parting and reunion;
The moon lacks lustre, brightly shines; is al, is less.
Perfection was never easily come by.
Though miles apart, could men but live for ever
Dreaming they shared this moonlight endlessly!
Su Tung-po

1 comment:

Carla Ives said...

I had never heard of this man. As I get older, I'm learning to appreciate poetry more and more. This is quiet, melancholy, as you say, but good. It's calming. "Perfection was never easily come by." So true.