Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Poetry of Chairman Mao

That's a page from Chairman Mao's Red Book. And so it is that Mao's own poetry, even when he tried to make it about nature, had a political tone. Mao, like many well-educated Chinese, wrote poetry. He was also an accomplished calligrapher. The picture below, though not Mao's own calligraphy, is of his poem "Snow" from about 1936.
Here is the poem in translation:
North country scene:
A hundred leagues locked in ice,
A thousand leagues of whirling snow.
Both sides of the Great Wall
One single white immensity.
The Yellow River's swift current
Is stilled from end to end.
The mountains dance like silver snakes
And the highlands charge like wax-hued elephants,
Vying with heaven in stature.
On a fine day, the land,
Clad in white, adorned in red,
Grows more enchanting.

This land so rich in beauty
Has made countless heroes bow in homage.
But alas! Chin Shih-huang and Han Wu-ti
Were lacking in literary grace,
And Tang Tai-tsung and Sung Tai-tsu
Had little poetry in their souls;
And Genghis Khan,
Proud Son of Heaven for a day,
Knew only shooting eagles, bow outstretched
All are past and gone!
For truly great men
Look to this age alone.

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