Saturday, January 10, 2015

Watching the Hills

On the Adriatic, watching the islands, 
I made this little watercolor in the blank book 
my teacher published with his preferred drawing paper. 
It's out of print now, but I sometimes find a used copy
with only the first few pages sketched on for assignments in a drawing class.
(Usually, the first assignment is to draw your own hand in contour.)
It is lovely off-white drawing paper (that takes a light wash) and has a slight texture.

On the Yangtze Watching the Hills

From the boat watching hills--swift horses:
A hundred herds race by in a flash.
Ragged peaks before us suddenly change shape,
Ranges behind us start and rush away.
I look up: a narrow trail angles back and forth,
A man walking it, high in the distance.
I wave from the deck, trying to call,
But the sail takes us south like a soaring bird.

Su Tung-P'o (1037-1101)

Su Tung-P'o; Selections from a Sung Dynasty Poet,
translated by Burton Watson
Columbia University Press, 1965, page 23.

This is one of the earliest extant poems by the Sung Dynasty poet, translated by one of his finest English translators. He was traveling with his brother, with whom he had a very close relationship, although they were often separated by their government assignments.
I am reading a book about the life of this poet by Lin Yutang. Originally published in 1947, it is still in print. It is called The Gay Genius. It is an amazing piece of very readable scholarship by Yutang, who left China long before that, and brought with him as much old material on Su as he had. Ir is wonderful to me that these poems have survived almost a thousand years.

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