CHINESE AND JAPANESE POEMS.* More Translations from the Chinese' belongs
to what might be called the " magic carpet " division of literature. The book evokes the strange landscape, the alien sounds, so strongly, so clear is the reader's impression of seeing the world for a moment from the new angle of the traveller, that he emerges from the book with astonishment to discover that he is still at home. The visual circumstances of the life in which he finds himself in these poems and stories are indicated, not by elaborate description, but by delicate indications. For example, the poet looks over the fence at some empty houses :— " From their blue Gables golden Fishes hang, By their red pillars carver coursers run."
In another poem the poet is to sell his horse—" A white horse with a black mane, sturdy and sure-footed."
Most of the poems were written in the first half of the ninth century, and, as in his former volume, Mr. Waley has devoted most of his space to the incomparable poet, Po Chii-I. Po Chii-I was a great aristocrat and an official of high rank, most of his best work being done when he was a Provincial Governor. Surely in no other society have we instances of a great creative artist who was also a rich noble and an active official. In the Italian Renaissance the princes and magnificoes were only patrons of the arts. In Rome Marcus Aurelius was no more a poet than was Alfred the Great. Chaucer and Prior were great poets, but they were very minor officials. Po Chii-I seems to have been more of a grandee than Sir Philip Sidney or Sir Walter Ralegh, and a better poet besides. This combination of poet and official has given to his work and to that of one or two more of Mr. Waley's " noble authors " an extraordinary flavour. It is " by gentlemen for gentlemen." The humour, the sense of tragedy, are both expressed with extreme delicacy and restraint ; so much so that at first reading many of the poems seem trivial. The highest praise is due to Mr. Waley for the crystal quality of his verse. In the following quatrain addressed " To a Talkative Guest " this quality is extremely apparent
The town visitor's easy talk flows in an endless stream ; The country host's quiet thoughts ramble timidly on. ' I beg you, Sir, do not tell me about things at Ch'ang-an.; For you entered just when my harp was tuned and lying
balanced on my knees.' " All the translations are intended as experiments in English unrhymed verse, and as a poem " Planting Bamboos " is typi- rally successful :— " Unrewarded, my will to serve the State ; At my closed door autumn grasses grow.
What could I da to ease a rustic heart ?
I planted bamboos, more than a hundred shoots.
When I see their beauty, as they grow by the streamside, I feel again as though I lived in the hills, And many a time on public holidays Round their railing I walk till night comes.
Do not say that their roots are still weak, Do not say that their shade is still small ; Already I feel that both in garden and house Day by day a fresher air moves. But most I love, lying near the window-side, To hear in their branches the sound of the autumn wind."
" Losing a Slave-Girl " is one of the most beautiful of the reflective poems. The whole tragedy of slavery is expressed in its eight lines :— " Around my garden the little wall is low ; In the bailiff's lodge the lists are seldom checked. I am ashamed to think we were not always kind ; I regret your labours, that will never be repaid. The caged bird owes no allegiance ; The wind-tossed flower does not cling to the tree.
Where to-night she lies none can give us news ; Nor any knows, save the bright watching moon."
The Japanese book of verse2 is much less striking. In the first place, the poems seem much inferior ; and in the second place, • (1) More Translations from the Chinese. By Arthur Willey. London : Allen and Unwin. [8s. net.]—(2) Japanese Poetry : The " Uta." By the same author. London : B. Milford. Os. Bd. net.1
Mr. Waley has here only provided the reader with a translation, not with a parallel poem in English. The Japanese (printed in European character) is set beside the translation, and the book seems to be intended for readers who have some knowledge of that language.