Friday, April 8, 2011


In 19th century, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson are pioneers of the development of American poetry. They have such a great influence that any current poet in American has somehow “raised up” by both of them, which is the same as the influence that Li Bai and Du Fu have on the Chinese poetry world.

Li Bai (ca 705 - 762), also called Li Po, is one of the China's most famous poets. A commentary that focuses on his connection to the Qing has been written. Ronald Egan writes in this literal work (Controversy, p.53), "In the first centuries of the Tang dynasty, the poets Meng Haoran and Li Po further promoted the cultivation of a special literati affiliation with this instrument." “BRINGING IN THE WINE”, one of his greatest artworks, belongs to the old genre of folk-song-styled-verseswith its content focus on the drinking party and amusement. We talked about Whitman’s “Song of myself” as his autobiography. This piece by Li Bai also on some extend reflected his personal journey over the years. The poem expresses his exclamation with the emotion of having genius but unrecognized, as well as the pessimistic idea that people should enjoy pleasure of their short life in good time. However, he also expresses his self-affirmation, the positive and unrestrained attitude to pursue freedom, which is derived and converted from the extreme pressure of the society and contradiction between reality and ideal. Below is the translation of this great artwork in Chinese history.

See how the Yellow River's waters move out of heaven.

Entering the ocean, never to return.

See how lovely locks in bright mirrors in high chambers,

Though silken-black at morning, have changed by night to snow.

...Oh, let a man of spirit venture where he pleases

And never tip his golden cup empty toward the moon!

Since heaven gave the talent, let it be employed!

Spin a thousand pieces of silver, all of them come back!

Cook a sheep, kill a cow, whet the appetite,

And make me, of three hundred bowls, one long drink!

...To the old master, Cen,

And the young scholar, Danqiu,

Bring in the wine!

Let your cups never rest!

Let me sing you a song!

Let your ears attend!

What are bell and drum, rare dishes and treasure?

Let me be forever drunk and never come to reason!

Sober men of olden days and sages are forgotten,

And only the great drinkers are famous for all time.

...Prince Chen paid at a banquet in the Palace of Perfection

Ten thousand coins for a cask of wine, with many a laugh and quip.

Why say, my host, that your money is gone?

Go and buy wine and we'll drink it together!

My flower-dappled horse,

My furs worth a thousand,

Hand them to the boy to exchange for good wine,

And we'll drown away the woes of ten thousand generations


  1. Lucy,

    Your posts have opened up, among many other fascinating topics, the question of royal patronage. These questions backtrack to our discussions of nationalism, national literary culture, etc. In simple terms, what makes certain poets (and other writers) representative of a particular national culture to the point where they are directly supported by politicians? This question quite obviously crosses over into discussions of differences between forms of government--democracies vs. monarchies, etc. If we take things back to our class (for the moment), can we ask: is Whitman's disidentification with the powerful politicians of the day, and identification with the "common American people," something that makes him quite radical?

  2. This is a really insightful post! I really enjoyed that poem, and it reminded me a lot of Whitman's "Song of Myself" with its length, extensive metaphors, and nature imagery.

    In response to your question, Professor Fisher, I do think that Whitman is quite radical in his appeal to the "common American people." Oftentimes writers target an intellectual audience, sometimes specifically other writers of their time period that they socialize with, which was apparent especially during the 19th century. Nowadays, I think writers are open to a broader audience, so the class distinctions are less defined. Whitman seems very modern to me, and since the majority of the "common people" do not receive the best education, many do not grasp the meaning of his poetry. "Song of Myself" serves as a voice for the "common people" who cannot express themselves fully in society.