A Feast of Lanterns, by L. Cranmer-Byng, , at sacred-texts.com
Next to Li Po in the estimation of his countrymen stands Tu Fu. His poetry is more finished in style than that of any Chinese master of the T‘ang period. Like many other poets of his age, he was also a painter and a friend of painters, notably of the soldier-artist Kiang-Tu. The wonderful horses of Kiang-Tu's brush have long vanished, but Tu Fu's poem remains and is worth quoting:
The two horses are the envy of all sportsmen.
They have the appearance of war-chargers,
Which can hurl themselves, one against a thousand.
Their white hair throws itself into the wind and dust.
The others, quite as wonderful, resemble
Now a cloud, now snow whirling in space,
Their delicate legs seem to run alongside the pine forest,
Whilst the spectators who see them pass applaud.
In common with most Chinese poets, Tu Fu had that haunting sense of sadness and regret for days gone by which the Portuguese call saudades—a word which has no equivalent in the English language. The reason is to be found in Chinese character and history. Already in Tu Fu's time the Empire had grown old and venerable. Dynasties had risen and set, cities and palaces had shrunk into grass-grown mounds. And to the Chinese the past has always been a cult—almost a religion. They realise the profound truth, more
than any other nation, that no man can escape from his ancestors, though he flee to the uttermost parts of the earth. Ancestral voices are calling him. Fears, hopes, and passions long forgotten still struggle for existence within him. By bell, book, and candle you may exorcise all ghosts, but the men and women of your race—these are the ghosts that are never laid.