XIII New Poetry (B)

新    诗(下)

In July 1937, the Anti-Japanese War led by the Chinese Communist party broke out. Under such circumstance, literature, with its revolutionary tradition, became a vehicle to educate and mobilize the broad masses of the people. During this process, poetry was the first to prosper, and many poems were written and well received by the people. Most poems expressed majestic, ardent and stimulated sentiment, as the patriotism of poets was inspired by the war. In order to fully express such sentiment, the forms of poetry became much freer. During the stalemate period of the war, poets obtained deeper observations and understanding of the reality. As a result, some fine and long narrative poems appeared. The optimistic and exciting voice of these poems did encourage and inspire the people in their resistance against Japanese aggression.
During the Anti-Japanese War period, Ai Qing and Tian Jian were outstanding in both achievement and influence.

A photo of Ai Qing

Ai Qing (艾青,1910-?) is one of the most important poets like Guo Moruo and Wen Yiduo in contemporary China. He became known when his “大堰河--我的保姆, Dayan River—My Nursing Mama” was published. In the poem, he created the image of a village woman who was much humiliated; by depicting such an image he imprecated the unjustified society. The prosaic lyric tone and the simple language gave the poem a unique artistic style. He eulogized the warmth of the war of national liberation by writing “我们要战争呵—直到我们自由了,Carry on the War—Until We Are Free” when the Anti-Japanese War broke out. His long poems “向太阳,Facing the Sun”, “火把,Torches” and so on reflected the spiritual demands of progressive intellectuals. These poems were like a torch kindled the revolutionary warmth of young people, and encouraged them to go for brightness and truth. His “他死在第二次,He Died at the Second Time” and “吹号手,The Trumpet Player” sang praises of the heroic militant spirit of soldiers. His anthology “北方,The North” described the miserable life of farmers. In “雪落在中国的土地上,Snow Fell on the Soil of China”, he wrote such vivid lines:

雪落在中国的土地上,        Xue luo zai zhong guo de tu di shang,
寒冷封锁着中国呀。。。。。。     Han leng feng suo zhe zhong guo ya…
中国,                      Zhong guo,
我的在没有灯光的晚上        Wo de zai mei you deng guang de wan shang
所写的无力的诗句            suo xie de wu li de shi ju
能给你些许的温暖么?        Neng gei ni xie xu de wen nuan me?

Snow fell on the soil of China,
China, which was blockaded by coldness…
Could the strengthless lines
I wrote at night when there was no light
Give you a bit warmth?

Many of his poems expressed feelings of his flesh and blood ties with the motherland. Following are the last two lines of “我爱这土地,I Love This Land”:

为什么我的眼里常含着泪水?       Wei shen me wo de yan li chang han zhe lei shui?
因为我对这土地爱得深沉。。。。。。    Yin wei wo dui zhe tu di ai de shen chen…

Why are there always tears in my eyes?
Because I love this land so profoundly…

The poems of Ai Qing were spread far and wide at this period and encouraged many young intellectuals to embark on the road of revolution. The main reason for such an effect was the patriotic feeling he projected in his simple and beautiful lines. His anthologies “潰灭,Crumble and Fall” and “反法西斯,Anti-Fascists” showed his concern on the anti-Fascist war by the people of the world. His anthology “黎明的通知, Notice Given by the Dawn” told the people in a delightful voice “what they have been waiting for is coming”. All together, there are 22 anthologies of Ai Qing. His poems have been translated into more than ten languages. In March 1983, he was given the highest French art and literature honor.

A photo of Tian Jian

Tian Jian (田间,1916-1985) published his “未明集,The Collection Before Things Getting Clear” and “中国农村的故事,Countryside Stories of China” before the Anti-Japanese War. The latter, composed of three parts: “Hunger”, “On the Yangtse River” and “Going”, reflected the sufferings of farmers, and their desire for life. His “给战斗者,To Fighters”, “她也要杀人,She Also Wants to Kill” and other anthologies published after the war broke out had extensive influence among readers. He used to write the shortest lines, each line contained two or three characters. Such way of writing produced intense, militant notes; the feelings of the poet were condensed in a powerful way. Wen Yiduo praised him as “the drummer of the era.” For instance, he wrote in “I Am One of the Seas”:

我,                 Wo,
是结实,             Shi jie shi,
是健康,             Shi jian kang,
是战斗的小伙伴。     Shi zhan dou de xiao huo ban.

Am sturdy,
A little fighting lad.

He went to the Liberated Areas quite early, experienced much actual struggles. You therefore find no grief feelings in his poems, in stead, you can find encouraging and exciting militant sentiment. His unique form of poetry suited his intense feelings; both factors formed his healthy and simple style. His poems were well received by readers during the war period. His “赶车传,The Experience of Driving a Cart” written after the war described a farmer’s emancipation. From 1959-1961, he wrote six more parts of “The Experience of Driving a Cart”. Which unfolded a broad scene of country life. It is a rare work among Chinese long narrative poems.

Ke Zhongping (柯仲平) wrote in Yanan two long narrative poems. “The Self-Defense Army of the Border Region” was about a farmer hero who caught national traitors and bandits with wisdom. “The Sabotage Brigade of the Pinghan Railway Workers” praised the organized struggles of the working class under the leadership of the party. Ke studied in real earnest folk literature, he tried to establish a national form for new poetry.

He Qifang (何其芳) published an anthology entitled “Night songs and Songs of the Day”. The anthology depicts the thinking and feelings of an intellectual who discarded the old society and joined the revolutionary ranks. His singing of brightness, emphasis of happiness and his longing for tomorrow reflected the changes of his thinking and the changes taking place in the society as well. His simple style, refined and colloquial lines and his honesty were of great affect. Many young intellectuals who longed for the free and happy life in the Liberated Areas were encouraged by his poetry.

During the later period of the Anti-Japanese War, the Liberated Areas, gradually expanded under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, were de facto basis of the Chinese nation in resistance against Japanese aggression. A new society was being built in various places of the Liberated Areas, where all kinds of rational reforms in politics, economy and culture were carried out. The new society, in which workers, peasants and soldiers ruled by means of democracy, opened up broad prospects for the development of art and literature. In order to portray the new era of the masses, the art and literature circle underwent a thorough rectification and reform.

On the 23rd of May 1942, Mao Zedong gave “A Talk at the Forum of Art and Literature in Yanan”. In the talk, he criticized some erroneous tendency existed in the thinking of some people; summed up the achievements and shortcomings of the revolutionary art and literature in the two decades and more since the May 4th Movement; put forth a clear and comprehensive proletarian line for art and literature. Mao gave a clear solution to the issue of whom art and literature should serve and how to serve. Mao held that art and literature should serve workers, peasants and soldiers, and art and literature workers should identify their thinking and feelings with that of the broad masses of workers, peasants and soldiers. He also held that we should inherit all fine heritages in art and literature and absorb things good from them with a critical eye. Mao himself is one of the greatest poets of China. His poetry inherited the fine traditions from the past, and at the same time, expressed the mind and feelings of a great man.

After Mao gave the above-mentioned talk, many refreshing and lively poems were produced in the Liberated Areas. The verses for operas “Brothers and Sisters Opening Up the Wasteland”, “The White Haired Girl” were written by poets. Poems like “The East Is Red”, composed by peasants in Northern Shaanxi, expressed their love of the Chinese Communist Party and its leader. The long narrative poem “Wang Gui and Li Xiangxiang” by Li Ji (李季,1922-1980) is a representative work of the poetry of the Liberated Areas. The poem adopted the form of “Xin Tian You”—one kind of the folk songs of Northern Shaanxi. It described the love between farmers Wang Gui and Li Xiangxiang, and their struggle against the despotic landlord Cui. In this poem, the poet dealt with the twists and turns of the revolutionary struggle, the justice of the people’s revolution and the certainty of its victory. The image of Wang Gui was vividly portrayed: “He is six foot tall and full of strength, his work in the fields equals that of two other men.” “He devotes all himself to the revolution.” He understands “it doesn’t matter if I myself die, thousand poor men will follow up.” Such descriptions depicted the noble quality of the laboring people. Li Xiangxiang was firm in her love:
A photo of Li Ji with Zhou Enlai

烟锅锅点得灯半炕炕明,     Yan guo guo dian de deng ban kang kang ming,
酒盅盅量米不嫌哥哥穷。     Jiu zhong zhong liang mi bu xian ge ge qiong.
妹妹生来就爱庄家汉,       Mei mei sheng lai jiu ai zhuang jia han,
实心实意赛过银钱。         Shi xin shi yi sai guo yin qian.

To light up the lamp with the bowl of a long pipe,
It could only illuminate half of the bed;
You measure rice with a wine cup,
I don’t dislike your being poor.
Sister I was born to love a farmer,
My true love and feeling value more than money.

“A Trap” written by Ruan Zhangjing (阮章竟,1914-?) is also a long narrative poem. It described how farmers saw through the trap and plot of a landlord and safeguarded their association. His “Zhanghe River” described three girls’ sad encounters before liberation, their experience of emancipation and their life and labor after liberation. This long poem ends with such lines:
 Ruan on a mountain

漳河水, 九十九道湾,    Zhang he shui, jiu shi jiu dao wan,
漳河流水唱的欢:         Zhang he shui chang de huan:
桃花坞,长青树,         Tao hua wu, chang qing shu,
两岸趟成康庄路。         Liang an tang cheng kang zhuang lu.
千年的古牢冲坍了!       Qian nian de gu lao chong ta le!
万年的铁笼砸碎了!       Wan nian de tie long zha sui le1
自由天飞自由鸟,         Zi you tian fei zi you niao,
解放了的漳河永欢笑!     Jie fang le de zhang he yong huan xiao!

The Zhanghe River, going through its 99 bends,
Sings merrily forward:
Along with peach and ever green trees,
The two banks have been turned into broad roads.
The thousand-year-old prison has collapsed!
The ten thousand-year-old cages have been smashed!
Free birds are flying in the free sky,
The emancipated Zhanghe River will forever be joyful!

There was a group of young poets very active in the Border Areas. For instance Chen Hui (陈辉) described the life of the people at the base areas with optimistic and confident feelings in his poems “The New Garden of Eden” and “The Red Sorghum”. Much to our regret, Chen died at too young an age; he only lived for 24 years. After liberation, Tian Jian collected his poems into the anthology “Songs of October”. Wei Wei (魏巍) published the anthology “The Scenery at Dawn”, which sang praises of the militant spirit of commanders and soldiers of the Liberated Areas.

Political satirical poems became the main stream in poetry creation at this time in the areas ruled by Kuomingtang. The most influential was “Mountain Songs of Ma Fantuo”, which aroused readers’ unsatisfaction with and resistance against the reactionary rule of Kuomingtang. Yuan Shuipai (袁水拍) was the poet, Ma Fantuo was his pen name. His satirical poems first appeared on newspapers and periodicals and caught the attention of a big readership. His poems were recited at mass rallies; his poems were written on banners during the anti-hunger and anti-civil war parades in Shanghai.

Zang Kejia published two anthologies during the period of the People’s Liberation War (1947-1949) “Baby” and “The Zero Degree of Life”. Most poems in these two anthologies are political satirical ones. He said in the “Forward” of “Baby”: “More satirical poems appeared in a year or so. This is not because poets suddenly become happy to do so, rather, there have been too many things shocking, and poets have been stung. It isn’t that poets don’t wish to sing praises of brightness—brightness has flowed away and being accumulated some where else.” There was no brightness in the Kuomingtang ruled areas. Poets could only voice their indignation and protest. Zang said in his poem “Only the Bore of Rifles Is Hot”:

这年头, 那儿去找繁荣,    Zhe nian tou, na er qu zhao fan rong,
繁荣全个儿集中在战地;     Fan rong quan ge er ji zhong zai zhan di;
这年头, 什么都冰冷,      Zhe nian tou, shen me dou bing leng,
发热的只有枪筒子。         Fa re de zhi you qiang tong zi.

In a year like this, where to look for prosperity,
Prosperity is being concentrated in the battlefields;
In a year like this, every thing is icy cold,
Only the bore of rifles is hot.

This is the voice of the people of the whole nation opposing civil war. The poet expressed truly his indignation against the darkest rule of Koumingtang. Zang paid a bit more attention to the ornateness of his poems in the past, by now his poetry had become more natural and unsophisticated.

In 1949, our late Chairman Mao Zedong declared solemnly to the world the founding of the People’s Republic of China. New China has opened up a new era for poetry. Poets have been singing loudly with delight and excitement the achievements the Chinese people have obtained in various fields. Poets have expressed the feelings and life of the Chinese people on their march along the socialist road. Many brilliant pieces, represented by Mao’s poems have been produced. I’m deeply convinced most Chinese poets will write beautiful poems in the new century and new millennium to match the profound social changes and to eulogize the unprecedented achievements the Chinese people will attend in their efforts for a bright future.


Previous >XII New Poetry (A)