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Twenty five Chinese poems

Category: Books sutras and myths

 

 

Clifford Bax, when travelling in the Orient, visited both China and Japan and became friends with a Japanese Buddhist poet and linguist named Tsutomi Inouye. 

Bax gained a great deal from the friendship learning more about Buddhist doctrine and visiting Japanese temples and gardens which Tsutomi was able to explain “he told me much that was beautiful concerning the temples that we visited, the lives of the quiet meditative priests and the marvels of an ancient magic not yet wholly carried away on the wild flood of materialism” 

They also spent their evenings together, and one evening as they discussed poetry, Tsutomi offered to teach him some Chinese poems.  Tsutomi regarded them with great affection indicating they were more beautiful than many of the Japanese poems with which Bax was familiar and more philosophic.

 

And this is how Bax’s Chinese poems came into existence – they are actual Chinese poems that he recorded, not his, although as a very spiritually inclined poet, he was able to bring something of the beauty of the poetry into the translations. 

Tsutomi sat with him for a number of evenings translating as well as he could those of his favourite poems until in a week some 25 were done.  When Bax suggested that he might shape them into English and get them published, Tsutomi was very enthusiastic:

My countrymen think much of the Chinese but English people do not know anything about them.  If you put these poems into your own speech perhaps they will understand why it is we respect so highly the Chinese people”.

 

 

Not, indeed, with ambition so large and vain did I set myself to work one green July, but yet with a certain hope that those to whom the labours of men were meaningless apart from the search for beauty, might share the pleasure that came from this handful of songs to him who shaped them anew and in our language. Now to the poems I add this foreword as a token of thanks to my friend who fittingly enough, is in summer a guide but in winter a vendor of lily-bulbs.

May the friendship between us, by which we were enabled to fashion this book, be only a prophecy in miniature of a true understanding between East and West, fruitful to either, and based not merely on armaments and commerce but also upon the surer foundation of the soul's desire for beauty.

Clifford Bax - January I910, Chelsea

The paintings I have chosen are all [as far as I have been able to ascertain] Chinese or in the Chinese style and come from all sorts of dynasties from the very early dynasties right up to the Ming dynasty.  I chose them solely for their beauty.

 

 

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