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Li Po 李白

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发表于 1-15-2019 17:42:09 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
In toto. The article is locked behind paywall.


Yunte Huang 黄运特, 'Heaven Begot Talent Like Me;' The poet sailed down the Yangtze, making friends, visiting temples and reciting poems at dinner parties. Wall Street journal, Jan 13, 2019
(book review on Ha Jin, The Banished Immortal; A life of Li Bai. Pantheon, Jan 15, 2019)


He was a man of many names: Li Po, Li Bo, Li Bai, Li Taibai. Since his death in 762 the Chinese have revered him as shixian ("Poet Immortal"). A dipsomaniac, he was also called jiuxian ("Wine Immortal"). In "Cathay," Ezra Pound's 1915 collection of classical Chinese poetry, Pound [1885 (born in present-day Idaho, which became a state in 1890) – 1972 (died in Venice); poet] had him as "Rihaku" [both 'ri" and 'hank" are Chinese pronunciations of kanji 李 and 白, respectively]—the way he was known, and venerated, in Japan. In Pound's creative translation, Rihaku's "The River-Merchant's Wife 長干行二首 [from which the idiom 青梅竹马 is derived]" became a masterpiece of modern poetry. Even Oulipo, the group of French poets interested in mathematics and writing experiments, were said to be proud of their gratuitous connection, at least in name [Li Po], to the Tang dynasty poet.

In China Li Po remains the bard of the land, if not the world -- a most recognizable global brand, second only, perhaps, to Confucius. As with any cultural icon, beneath the shining veneer must lie untold stories, apocryphal or otherwise. In The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai (Li Po), the National Book Award-winning author Ha Jin has excavated historical records and examined existing biographies, both in Chinese and English, to produce a rich, moving and titillating account of the poet's life. The Li Po that emerges from this tale is a figure we know so well and yet hardly.

"The Banished Immortal" is a deeply empathetic portrait of a literary genius whose vicissitudes in life—filled with ambitions, frailties, losses and pains—would pale a Shakespearean drama. Among much else, Ha Jin reminds us of the degree to which the poet's career )and, indeed, his final date) was intimately tied up  with the court politics  of his time.
"When power corrupts, poetry cleanses," said President Kennedy in 1963. The life of Li Po is a testimony to the truth of that statement. Today, when power-grabbing politicians look out for themselves rather than the public, as they did in Li Po's time, poetry has a herculean cleaning job to do. By giving us this mesmerizing biography, Ha Jin, who began his writing career as a poet and whose lucid narrative always contains a touch of poetry, sounds a warning gong for our troubled age.

It turns out that the most iconic poet Chinese poet was not from China. Born in 701 in Suyab [碎葉(城)]  (today's Tokmok  in Kyrgyzstan) [关于其出生地有多种说法: Wikipedia], Li Po was a child of mixed marriage. His mother was not Han Chinese; she was probably a Turk. His father, Li Ke, had apparently invented his surname, partly to disguise his real genealogy and partly to forge a connection to the royal Li clan that ruled the Tang dynasty. Li Ke was a trader on the Silk Road, driving a caravan of camels carrying grains, fabrics, wines, dried food, utensils and paper. Growing up on the western frontier of the Tang empire, Li Po spoke a Turkish dialect as his mother tongue. Later in life, he was known to speak Chinese with a heavy accent.

When Li Po was 5, his father moved the family southeast to Sichuan, a mystic land known for its majestic mountains, lush green rivers, howling gibbons and spicy food. The family settled in a scarcely settled county, now known as Jiangyou 四川省绵阳市江油市. Here, young Li Po began his schooling, a process then aimed toward passing the civil=service exam and acquiring a government post. But this common means of joining officialdom was not possible for a merchant's son; businesspeople were regarded as dishonest elements of society, and their sons were not eligible for taking the exam. Li Po grew bored of the Confucian classics. He preferred poetry and Taoist texts.  , particularly the works of Chuang Tzu, who advocated harmony with nature, living carefree and governance by doing nothing.

Li Po also picked up the sword and for two years received training from a Taoist couple in the mountains—two cave-dwelling hermits who also taught Taoism, medicine and alchemy. Upon completion of his training, 19-year-old Li Po, nearly 6 feet tall -- raw-boned, fierce-eyed -- traveled through Sichuan carrying a sword, seeking patrons who could sponsor him for an official post. Yet his failed to woo any: Most potential patrons, though impressed by his unusual poetic talent, thought of the young man as being too unruly. Disappointed, Li Po returned home and accepted a menial job as a clerk for the county magistrate. But he soon grew weary of whiling away his time at the bottom echelons of officialdom.

In the fall of 524, Li began yunyou, literally "cloud travel," the Chinese version of Wordsworth's "I traveled lonely as a cloud." Sailing down the Yangtze River, Li Po did not know that this would be the beginning of his lifelong peregrinations. He made friends along the way, visiting temples and reciting poems at dinner parties where the wine flowed freely. His reputation as a "Wine Immortal" was thus born. In a poem titled, simply, "Please Drink 将进酒," he wrote: "What I want is to be drunk forever without sobering up 但愿长醉不愿醒." Grandiloquence notwithstanding, Li Po actually cared deeply about a career in politics, as he put it in the same bacchanal poem: "Heaven begot talent like me and must put me in good use."

Continuing his peripatetic travels, Li Po composed thousands of poems, many of which were inspired by the folk songs he had heard in taverns, brothels, open-air theaters, and marketplaces. In some sense, he was a troubadour with deep roots among the common folk. His best known poem, "Reflection in a Quiet Night 静夜思," which every Chinese with elementary schooling has learned by heart, was composed in his sickbed on the road, expressing emotions everyone can relate to:

        Moonlight spreads before my bed.
        I wonder if it's hoarfrost on the ground.
        I raise my head to watch the moon.
        And lowering it, I think of home.

On 742, at the height of Li Pos literary reputation, he finally received a royal summons from Emperor Xuanzong. At the reception, the emperor personally filled a bowl of soup for him, a rare honor that soon became the talk of the country. He was assigned to the Imperial Academy of the palace. Good time did not last, however, for Li Po was not content to e a fawning court poet , singing the emperor's praises, while the emperor -- having no interest in national affairs or Li Po's vision for the country -- reveled in pleasures with his favorite concubine, Lady Yang. At the same time, the emperor's fondness for Li Po made him a target of jealousy for snobs and sycophants at court. In less than two years he resigned and left the capital.

Disillusioned, Li Po decided to join the Taoist society and was inducted by a master at a weeklong ceremony in 745. From then on, as a Taoist fellow, he would wear a robe, enter a domain of peace with the world and seek immortality by consuming a homemade elixir. But Li Po was no saint, at least not yet. As Ha Jin tells us, the fatal weakness in Li Po's s character was his inability to abandon his worldly interests and live a truly eremitic [sic; should be hermetic] life, a flaw that would spell his ruin.

In 755, the An Lushan rebellion broke out, which would effectively end Emperor Xuanzong's reign. Li Po, out of naiveté, picked the wrong side. When the dust settled—rebels crushed, a new emperor crowned—Li Po was arrested as a criminal. Narrowly spared execution, he was banished to Yelang 夜郎, a remote southwest region, essentially China's Siberia. On the long march to Yelang, the country's most celebrated poet, accompanied by prison guards, had to wear heavy irons. Before reaching his destination, he was suddenly pardoned by the new emperor.

Li Po's death has long been shrouded in mystery. Some claimed he had never died, a miracle made possible by elixirs. Others believed he he drowned when one night, in drunken revelry, he jumped from a boat to chase after the moon's reflection. His real death, as Ha Jin reveals, was probably less dramatic but more tragic. Li Po died sometimes in 762 in obscurity and poverty in rural Anhui. When a court decree came in January 764, appointing him as a counselor to yet another new emperor [《新唐书》 (compiled by 北宋歐陽修 etc) 记载,唐代宗 [reign 762-779] 繼位後以左拾遺召李白,但李白當時已去世; 拾遺 (官名): zh.wikipedia.org], the local county officials could not locate the famous poet. They had no idea that Li Po, the 'Poet Immortal,' had been dead for more than a year, buried in an unmarked grave among weeds and brambles.

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 楼主| 发表于 1-15-2019 17:45:40 | 显示全部楼层
Note:
(a)
(i) Huang, Yunte Professor, Department of English, University of California, San Diego (BA, Peking University, 1991[;] PhD, SUNY Buffalo, 1999)
https://www.english.ucsb.edu/people/huang-yunte
'Of course, poets are born unlucky souls, / But no one has been s desolate as you.'  BAI YUJI, 'AT LI PO'S GRAVE'
(ii) Ha Jin 哈金 (born in 1956 in 辽宁省錦州市 as 金雪飞)
(A) The zh.wikipedia org for says, "1989年當哈金在美國的布蘭戴斯大學留學時,六四天安門事件發生,使得他決定留在美國。他在1990年時出版了第一本詩集《沉默之間》[a book of poetry in English, not Chinese: Ha Jin, Between Silences; A voice from China. University of Chicago Press, 1990]。 1992年取得哲學博士學位。"

That gives a reader the impression that he was admitted to Brandeis Univ in 1989 and obtained PhD in three years, which is unheard of in 文科.
(B) His CV in Boston Univ Dept of English website says:
*  "1985-1992 Department of English and American Literature, Brandeis University, MA (1988) and PhD (1993).  Dissertation: Universalization in Modern English and American Poetry."
and * professor, Dept of English, Boston Univ (2002- ); professor (2000-2001), associate professor (1998-2000) and assistant professor (1993-1998), Dept of English, Atlanta: Emory Univ)
(iii) Oulipo
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oulipo

(b) English dictionaries:
(i) rawboned (adj): "relatively thin with prominent bone structure   also : heavy-framed and rugged but not attractively built"
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rawboned
(ii) peregrination (n): "iterary, humorous  a journey, especially a long or meandering one"
https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/peregrination

This word is ultimately from Latin adjective masculine peregrīnus foreign, alien: Wiktionary.
(iii) "he was a troubadour with deep roots among the common folk"
(A) folk (n): "folk or folks plural : people generally"
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/folk

That is, the plural form of folk may be either folk or folks.
(B) troubadour (n; Did You Know?)
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/troubadour

Though en.wikipedia.org for troubadour does not say so, they traveled to perform. See Elizabeth Aubrey, The Music of the Troubadours. Indiana University Press, 1996, at page 25
https://books.google.com/books?i ... patetic&f=false
("The troubadours were a peripatetic and diverse group of men and women")
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