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300 Poems

There is a Chinese proverb that goes like this: "By reading thoroughly 300 T'ang poems, one will write verse without learning."

I have in my possession one book of 300 T'ang poems. It is called The Jade Mountain. It is a 1972 reprint of a 1929 anthology, translated by Witter Bynner, and originally compiled in the 18th century by an anonymous Chinese editor. I bought it at a used bookstore years ago for $1.95. I know the price because it is written in pencil on the inside cover. The book is out of print now, but you can pick up a used copy through amazon. I checked; my old paperback is 34 years old and showing its age.

On page 52, there is one poem by a man named Li P'in, called simply "Crossing the Han River." There is no annotation, no biographical information. All I know of Li P'in is that he lived and wrote during the T'ang dynasty, between 618 and 906 AD. Other than this one poem, he is a ghost to me, a man reduced over time to four perfect lines of poetry. They read, in Bynner's translation, like this:

Away from home, I was longing for news
Winter after winter, spring after spring.
Now, nearing my village, meeting people,
I dare not ask a single question.

I've never read all 300 poems thoroughly. I seem to lack the discipline. Here's hoping that one day I can.

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post #428
bio: blaine

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April - National Poetry Month 2008

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