Li Ho
(pinyin: Li He)

born 791 AD in China
died 817 AD in Ch'ang-ku/China


Li Ho was a brilliant Chinese poet (living in famous T'ang dynasty) whose untimely death at the age of 26 ended what might have become one of China's greatest poetic careers. Anyway, he is mentioned together with great T'ang poets like Li T'ai-po (also known as Li Bai) - the intoxicated "genius" - and Tu Fu (Du Fu) - the "saint"!:

Literary legend describes him as a man of kuei-ts'ai (about: "devilish talent", "demoniacal spirit") who composed his haunting verses by jotting down single lines on small slips of paper while on horseback, dropping the slips into an embroidered black bag, and assembling a finished poem each evening. Composing verse from the early age of seven, Li Ho promised to do well on the literary examinations necessary for an official career. Unfortunately, the poet was excluded from the examinations by a minor technicality; his resulting disappointment was said to have triggered the poor health that led to his death a few years later. Li Ho's verse is characterized by its vivid imagery, odd diction, striking juxtapositions, and unrelieved pessimism. Not at all common in Chinese poetry's 'concrete' language, Li not seldom uses daring and 'dark' metaphors.

Although a poet well-known during Chinese history, not one single piece of his work had been included in famous "300 T'ang Poems" (T'ang Shih San-Pai Shou).

I was touched from the very first moment hearing his poetry with its almost 'modern' sound, and 'seeing' this young nobleman moving along on his little horse, followed by the boy servant, spending his days in sickness and misery ...



Bei der Lektüre in Tschang-gu
meinem Dienerknaben aus Ba gezeigt

Insekten tönen. Dünn die Lampe glimmt.
Arzneigeruch im nächtlich kalten Zimmer.
Sein Gast, der flügellahme, dauert dich:
Folgst ihm in all der bittren Not noch immer.

(transl. by G. Debon)

While reading in Ch'ang-ku
shown to my boyservant from Pa

Buzzing of insects through the lamp's faint glow.
Of drugs dense vapors, hov'ring in nightly chill.
Having compassion on this guest, so broken-winged:
Through all deep misery, you are with me still.

(transl. by A.W. Tüting)


    Cold in the North ...

    Black sheen on one,
    purpl' on each other side.
    The Yellow Stream - all ice,
    so fish and dragon died.
    Tree barks, three foot - a script
    of frost-cracked runes.
    Hundreds of hundredweights -
    cartloads on waters ride.

    Frostwork aground - big coins
    of silvery bloom.
    Sword's blow will never wound
    the dark sky's misty gloom.
    Vying, river and sea -
    ice floes in roaring flight.
    A silent waterfall so still:
    rainbow from jasper spume.

    (transl. by A.W. Tüting)

    Frost im Norden ...

    Schwarzer Glanz am einen Pol,
    drei Pole purpurfarben.
    Eis bedeckt den Gelben Strom,
    dass Fisch und Drache starben.
    In Baumes Rinde, drei Fuß dick,
    klaffen Runenrisse.
    Wagen, hundert Zentner schwer,
    steigen über die Flüsse.

    Blüten trieb der Reif im Grund,
    groß wie Silberlinge.
    Durch den düstren Himmel dringt
    nimmer des Degens Klinge.
    Heulend aus erhobener See
    kommen die Schollen geflogen.
    Der Wasserfall hangt ohne Laut:
    ein jadener Regenbogen.

    (transl. by G. Debon)




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