When I started to think various reasons that have made Li a lesser known political poet, the first explanation jumped to my head was: “maybe his political works are just not great enough.” Of course many more intricate historical elements should account for the result, but this most straightforward point could not be avoided when we take a perspective of poetry itself.
Just translated another Li’s poem and I feel it’s really hard to keep the poem’s original tone. There’re only five syllables in each line in the original work, while iambic pentameter barely allows me to extract most literal meanings. Therefore, I let go all his fancy language, which is almost untranslatable. The original poem doesn’t have any pronoun, which makes it mostly consist of many pictures rather than the poet’s conversation with a cicada.
Before started the research this summer, Li Shang-yin to me was no more than a celebrated, talented and may be unfortunate poet. I loved reading his poetry, but I didn’t think too much about why he got so distinct writing styles, how those styles might be connected with his life experience, and why the poetry written during his late years are so vague.
Li Shang-yin (813-858, A.D.) is one of the most prominent poets during the late Tang Dynasty of China. He has a long lasting impact in Chinese literary history and his poetry is often recognized as a reflection of the scholars’ mindsets during the years of turmoil. Renowned for his delicate love poetry, Li Shang-yin holds a very important position in the history of Chinese literature. Nevertheless, after reading many of his poems, I discovered that Li’s works in fact concentrated mostly on political criticisms, though many times he also mourned for his lack of opportunity to bring substantial changes to the country.