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This book is out of print and almost impossible to find used. A copy recently sold for $170 on ebay. But it is a testament to its high quality that people are willing to spend that much to own it.
Tu Fu (AD 712-770) and his contemporary Li Po are the two great masters of Tang Dynasty poetry. To greatly simplify, Li Po is the Taoist free spirit, while Tu Fu is the Confucian, concerned for the welfare of China, from the peasant on up to the emperor. While Li Po's touching and often whimsical accounts of wine and song under moonlight are perennial favorites with audiences around the world, Tu Fu is often considered harder to translate, and hence less accessible to those who do not read Chinese. However, poet and critic Kenneth Rexroth expressed the view that Tu Fu was THE greatest non-epic poet that the world has ever produced, in any language.
David Hawkes was for many years a professor of Chinese at Oxford. He has also published what is perhaps the definitive translation of the great Chinese novel _Story of the Stone_ (also known as _Dream of the Red Chamber_). In _A Little Primer of Tu Fu_, Hawkes has taken thirty-five of Tu Fu's most highly regarded poems, and provided for each
1. the original Chinese text
2. the pronunciation of the text (in Pinyin romanization with tones)
3. a note on the "Title and Subject" of the poem, including a discussion of the poem's context in Chinese history and Tu Fu's life
4. a discussion of the "Form" of the poem ("regulated verse," "old style" etc.), including meter and rhyme
5. a line-by-line "Exegesis" of the poem, which translates each line word-by-word and comments, typically after each couplet, on the word choice, imagery, etc.
This book serves as a good general introduction to Chinese poetry. It explains some of the conventions of historical verse forms, and the way they are used by this poet. For the poems of Tu Fu, it provides both a bare-bones, line-by-line translation of the displayed Chinese text, and a good English version of each poem. There is also interesting commentary on the poems, and details of the poet's life.
This is a memorable book.
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