Du Fu Essay - Critical Essays

Du Fu Poetry: World Poets Analysis

Du Fu’s poetry deals with a multitude of concerns and events. His verses express the moments of self-doubt and frustration which plagued the poet, such as when he failed the civil-service examinations or when he became increasingly afflicted by physical ailments later in life, referring to himself in one verse as an “emaciated horse.” Du Fu’s poems also deal with painting and the other arts, and they often employ allusions to outstanding figures in China’s literary and political past to comment on contemporary conditions. It is, however, in his poems addressed to family and friends and in his nature poems that the substance and depth of his verse can be most clearly seen.

Among Du Fu’s finest poems are those which express his love for friends and family. Poems addressed to friends constituted both a literary and a social convention in China during the Tang period. In literate society, men sought one another for friendship and intellectual companionship, and poems of the “address and answer” variety were often composed by the poet. Several examples occur in the poems which Du Fu wrote either to or about Li Bo, his fellow poet. After the two met in 744, they traveled together extensively, and a firm bond, both personal and scholarly, was established between them. In one poem commemorating the two poets’ excursion to visit a fellow writer, Du Fu explained his feeling toward Li Bo: “I love my Lord as young brother loves elder brother/ . . . Hand in hand we daily walk together.” In “A Winter Day,” Du Fu writes that “Since early dawn I have thought only of you [Li Bo],” thoughts which may have been both pleasant and painful for Du Fu as he grappled with the question of whether he wanted to continue his quest for a governmental position or follow Li Bo’s example and become a “withdrawn” poet. Du Fu also highly praised Li Bo’s verses. In a later poem, “the Master” laments the fact that Li Bo has become unstable, but he also rejoices in the gift of Li Bo’s talent: “My thoughts are only of love for his talent./ Brilliant are his thousand poems.”

The concern and admiration which Du Fu felt and expressed poetically were not directed solely to other poets. Many of his poems of this type were addressed to longtime friends. “Zeng Wei ba chu shi” (“For Wei Ba, in Retirement”) is one example which...

(The entire section is 964 words.)