Chinese poetry has been existent for a long time but it was only in the sixteenth century when it became known to the Western world. Missionary scholars came across some famous Chinese poems and helped in their translations. The translations brought into light some of the most prolific Chinese poets. One of these prolific Chinese poets is Du Fu. His expertise in Chinese poetry comes into lime light as one goes through his set of poems. Du Fu was the author of over 1000 poems. Some of his most famous poems include Three Partings, Three Officers, A song of Chariots, A spring view, Autumn Wind and A song of Fair Ladies among others. This Confucian poet had a surprising thematic range and was a connoisseur of all verse forms of his epoch. Du Fu’s work is largely diverse but his mostly recognized poems are historical and autobiographical in nature and seemingly record some of the effects that war had on his life. In fact, much of the facts about his life can be deduced from his poem. However, not everything depicted by his poems is true as will be shown later. Unlike other poets of his time, he never obtained a lot of fame due to the obscurity of his works and the complexity of his verses that required a third eye to encode their meanings. Disguise of personal character is something that conspicuously surfaces as one reads the poems. He has a false depiction or a disguised character different from the real person Du Fu. Using illustrations from an omnibus of his poems, this paper is going to dig deeper into contrasting character that Du Fu builds of himself. As seen in his poems Du Fu, assumes a character that is a total dissimilarity of his own. As some of his critics, proposed Fu used this approach in his poetry to achieve self-dramatization of which his critics terms as exaggeration of character. This paper seeks to expound on this aspect drawing illustrations from some of his poems and his general biography.
An image is created in the reader’s mind as one goes through most of his poems. One would think that Du Fu is a senior citizen in his country. He wants to portray himself as an old man who has a family and children. For instance when he was twenty he was in his twenties, in his poems he assumed a persona of a Confucian elder with long white hair. When one reads the line where he terms himself as a person with a long white hair, one would be convinced enough that Du Fu is an old man.
In one of his poems, Jiang village, Du Fu builds an image of a poverty-stricken man with children and a wife. Lines such as, “My wife and children are startled to see me alive. The surprise ends but they can't stop wiping tears,” “I live my late years as if I've stolen my life. Very few joys after I returned home. My little son never lets go of my knees, afraid I will go away again,” (The Norton Anthology of World Literature, 1029) paints an image of an elderly man within his sunset years.
In another poem, “Old Couple’s Departure”, the poet tries to paint a similar image. An image of a very old man whose life is miserable is created in the poem. However, remembering his family background, Du Fu is painting an image that is a total opposite of him. When he was doing most of his poetry, he was in his twenties, something else that exemplifies his disguise. The person we meet in his poems is not who real Du Fu is. For instance in the poem, “Old Couple’s Departure,” Du Fu’s choice of words paints the image of an old man. For instance, he says, “The four outskirts are not yet safe and quiet, I am old, but have no peace. All my sons and grandsons died in battle; it is no use to keep my body alone in one piece. Throwing away my walking stick, I walk out the door.”(The Norton Anthology of World Literature, 1034)
In the very poem, he describes his wife as very old who is bidding farewell to life, “My old wife is lying in the road weeping. The year is late and her clothes thin. Though I know at heart this is our death-farewell, her shivering in cold still hurts me.”This again paints the picture of a very old man which in real sense is not the case.
Throughout his poems, Du Fu makes constant reference to his supposed difficulties. He particularly used the experiences of others to bring out some of his own supposed difficulties. For instance in one of his oldest surviving works titled ‘the Song of the Wagons”, he bestows voice to a conscript’s soldier sufferings in the Chinese imperial army way before the emergence of the rebellion (The Norton Anthology of World Literature, 1044). This poem helps to bring out the tension that exists between the acceptance and the fulfillment of a person’s duties, and the obvious suffering consciousness that this involves. His poems also appear to show empathy to the common folks.
The intention of elements such as these in Du Fu’s poems is to draw compassion towards himself. He utilizes this trick throughout his poems particularly through various themes that are continuously articulated in his poems touching on the lives of civilians and soldiers.
Du Fu also records other types of sufferings that he supposedly went through including falls from grace, the death of a son due to starvation, exile and so on. However, many critics are of the opinion that most of these aspects have been tremendously exaggerated for the purpose of self- dramatization and to once again draw compassion towards himself.
Although his frequent references to the difficulties faced by civilians may bring forth an impression of an all caring individual, many researchers and analysts of his poems suggest that he reserved most of the compassion to himself. The assertions in his poem may portray him as an individual whose harsh life has educated him on the unpleasant side of the Tang politics. It can also appear as if poverty of lack of luxury has pushed him closer to the lives of the common people which are full of much suffering.
However, this compassion for others as well for himself can be considered to be part of poetry revolution which resulted in a widening of the poetry scope. He devoted most of his poems to topics that many considered unpoetic.
Du Fu was notorious for hiding his subjective feelings behind an objective description and it was through this that he was able to achieve the feat of disguise.
The Norton Anthology of World Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2009. Print.