Chinese themes

January 26 2015

Looking at Arthur Waley’s two collections of translations of classical Chinese poems (links in last post), several themes recur. Separation. Officials and soldiers in a large empire spend time, perhaps most of their lives, away from home. Did they not take their families with them when they were posted to remote places or to a capital? Nature. Solitude. Friendship.

In Bai Juyi (Po Chü-i) especially, laziness, lassitude, drinking, depression, world-weariness, ageing, illness. Nothing overstated.

Perhaps Waley’s translations are regarded as dated and have been superseded or his selections are not representative. But they are enjoyable as poems in English.

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