Friday, September 10, 2010

"Dirge In Woods": George Meredith And Po Chu-i

Charles Whitehead's sonnet "A type of human life this forest old" ("Life Explained, Part Five": September 2, 2010) reminds me of a poem by George Meredith (1828-1909) that shares, I think, a similar feeling:

            Dirge in Woods

A wind sways the pines,
               And below
Not a breath of wild air;
Still as the mosses that glow
On the flooring and over the lines
Of the roots here and there.
The pine-tree drops its dead;
They are quiet, as under the sea.
Overhead, overhead
Rushes life in a race,
As the clouds the clouds chase;
               And we go,
And we drop like the fruits of the tree,
               Even we,
               Even so.

George Meredith, A Reading of Earth (1888).

                                                  Howard Phipps
                                "Edge of the Wood, Broadchalke"

Meredith's poem in turn reminds me of certain Chinese poems from the Tang Dynasty (618-907).  I am thinking of the writing of poets such as Wang Wei, Po Chu-i, Li Po, and Tu Fu.  The following poem is by Po Chu-i (772-846), and is translated by Arthur Waley (1889-1966).

The western wind has blown but a few days;
Yet the first leaf already flies from the bough.
On the drying paths I walk in my thin shoes;
In the first cold I have donned my quilted coat.
Through shallow ditches the floods are clearing away;
Through sparse bamboos trickles a slanting light.
In the early dusk, down an alley of green moss,
The garden boy is leading the cranes home.

                                  Howard Phipps, "The Clarendon Way"                


ethel mertz said...

I just now found this blog. Gold pieces are springing from my screen! Thank you!

Stephen Pentz said...

ethel mertz: Thank you very much for visiting and for your kind comment.

Your name brings back memories -- however, I will not disclose when I first watched Ethel and Fred! (Hint: the T.V. was black-and-white, not color.)

Thank you again.