Classical Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty: an interpretive translation by Lan Hua
One very revealing part of the Tang legacy is the handful of poems that Li Bai and Du Fu wrote to each other. Poems about friendship or those exchanged between friends were a standard element of the Tang poetic canon. But the poems between Li Bai and Du Fu have an incredible poignancy as they say so much about how these two great poets saw themselves and each other. Just imagine, for example, how meaningful it would be if Shakespeare and John Donne happened to exchange a few personal sonnets. So in a way, we have been permitted a much more intimate glimpse into the hearts and minds of these Tang poets even at such great temporal and cultural remove than we have of the most renowned poets in our own tradition.
Let me start first with one of Li Bai’s poems About Du Fu. As far as I know, Li Bai wrote a total of three poems about his younger colleague whereas Du Fu (ever the eager younger brother) wrote eight or nine such poems in return.