Lyric Poets of the Southern T'Ang: Fengyen-Ssu, 903-960, and by Daniel Bryant

By Daniel Bryant

This booklet is the 1st in Western literature to target the poetry of Li Yu and Feng Yen-ssu. It includes approximately 100 translations of chinese language poems written in the course of the short and turbulent Southern T'ang Dynasty (907- 960 A.D.). Bryant describes and evaluates the main contribution of Li Yu and Feng Yen-ssu to the evolution of the poetry shape often called 'tz'u' -- a kind which displays the hugely constructed cultural milieu of the interval.

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Extra info for Lyric Poets of the Southern T'Ang: Fengyen-Ssu, 903-960, and Li Yu, 937-978

Sample text

45 The particular importance of Feng Yen-ssu may be owing in part to accidental causes connected with the way in which his collected lyrics were edited. In any event, his oeuvre is much more homogeneous, both in style and in quality. The consistency and availability of his work, which, if it does not often rise to the level of Li's finest lyrics, at least never falls to the level of the latter's "Ch'ang Hsiang Ssu," may have made it a particularly potent force in the development of the lyric. Although a number of early Sung lyric poets are stylistically almost indistinguishable from Feng Yen-ssu, the closest thing to a successful imitation of Li Yii does not appear until the Manchu poet Singde, in the seventeenth century.

In other cases, the handling of phonetic effects is less closely linked to the meaning of the lines. In the seventh of Feng Yen-ssu's poems to the melody "Ts'ai Sang-tzu," for example, their function is simply to smooth the flow of words by numerous overlapping links created by alliteration and vowel harmony. A catalogue of these may make tedious reading, but it should illustrate the point and is worth giving: "seng, fang-; fang-, san-; san- rin; kui kTe- I dhok siok kyang; kyang / nguat zhiang:; zhiang:, ~siu / fsue; puan-, Ham kwa-; kwa- nguok keu / k'i:; tiam: kiam:; kiam: kying; kyingyiu; ts'ieis'ie-, dzheu; dzheu / bhing drhiang-; bhing drhiang- long / tsiang; tsiang ts'tie:; li sim; kua kyiit.

They characteristically depicted the beauty and solitary longing of a lonely wife whose husband was away on military service or of a neglected palace lady. In some cases the woman in these poems was intended to stand for the poet, insufficiently appreciated or rewarded by his social or political superiors, but often the poems were simply literary exercises. This was especially true in the sixth and seventh centuries, when a courtly literary tradition that valued subtlety and artifice dominated the world of poetry.

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