Circa A.D. 700
One of the most fascinating of all the T`ang poets. His life was one long series of romantic adventure. At first, a poor youth battling with adversity; then the lover of an actress, whom he followed through the provinces, play-writing for the strolling troupe to which she was attached; the next, secretary to a high personage engaged in a mission to Thibet; then soldier, and finally poet of renown, acquiring with his latter years the fortune and honours denied him in his youth.
The chief characteristics of his poetry are intense concentration, a vivid power of impressionism, and a strong leaning in the direction of the occult. Indeed, one of his best-known poems, "The Return to the Mountains", makes mention of the projection of the astral body through space during sleep. Many of his poems leave us with a strange sense of horror which is suggested rather than revealed. It is always some combination of effects which produces this result, and never a concrete form.
Impressions of a Traveller
In a silent, desolate spot, In the night stone-frozen and clear, The wanderer's hand on the sail Is gripped by the fingers of fear.
He looketh afar o'er the waves, Wind-ruffled and deep and green; And the mantle of Autumn lies Over wood and hill and ravine.
'Tis Autumn! -- time of decay, And the dead leaves' 'wildering flight; And the mantle of Autumn lies On the wanderer's soul to-night!
There was a King of Liang* -- a king of wondrous might -- Who kept an open palace, where music charmed the night --
Since he was Lord of Liang a thousand years have flown, And of the towers he builded yon ruin stands alone.
There reigns a heavy silence; gaunt weeds through windows pry, And down the streets of Liang old echoes, wailing, die.
* Strictly speaking, the pronunciation of all words such as Liang, Kiang, etc., is nearer one syllable than two. For purposes of euphony, however, without which the lines would be harsh and unpoetical, I have invariably made two syllables of them. --Next