On Du Fu the Poet-Historian and Analogy-Metaphor of the Six Principles, with Remarks on the Relationship between Narrative Ballads and the Style of Spring and Autumn Annals
Keywords:杜甫詩史, 六義比興, 筆削見義, 叙事歌行, 《春秋》書法, 中國叙事傳統, Du Fu the Poet-historian, the six principles and analogy and metaphor, the acts of recording and deletion reflecting one’s intent, narrative ballad poetic form, the writing method of the Spring and Autumn Annals, the tradition of Chinese narratology
LANGUAGE NOTE | Document text in Chinese; abstract also in English.
Du Yu (222-285) of the Jin Dynasty was the great, great-grandfather of Du Fu (712-770) by thirteen generations. In the “Introduction” to his Variorum of the Spring and Autumn Annals with Zuo’s Commentaries, Du Yu described four devices of the classics, namely “subtlety,” “euphemism,” “manifestation,” and “ambiguity”; as well as the significance of punishing the evil and commending the virtuous. He illustrated countless devices of the narrative tradition and became a great contributor to the study of Spring and Autumn Annals. Du Fu wrote “A Funeral Oration for My Remote Ancestor, Lord of Dangyang” when he was thirty years old, in which he claims that he does not dare to forget his origin nor go against the principle of benevolence. Therefore, both the Spring and Autumn Annals and poetry became the legacy of the Du family. When Du Fu wandered to the Long and Shu regions in southwestern China, he wrote poems in the form of narrative ballad, which won him the sobriquet of “poet-historian.” Meng Qi (jinshi 875) in his Benshi shi praised him for “inferring the most obscure content without missing anything.” Du Fu employs devices of the Spring and Autumn Annals in writing narratives and biographical accounts. These devices include combining diction and enumeration of allusions, revealing meaning in refined wording; providing a faithful account of events to unveil the good and bad; inferring the most obscure content in subtle, indirect, manifesting, and ambiguous ways; including the whole picture with one small part and realizing one thing by means of another; recording minor and abridged details and illuminating the important through the minor; directly condemning the indecent and writing euphemistically to hide it if necessary; contrasting one part with another and establishing the foreground and background; deploying diction and allusions; and the most important points concern how the acts of recording and deletion reflect one’s choice between giving details or simplifying, disagreement and agreement, stressing and ignoring, and neglecting and taking seriously. During the An Lushan Rebellion, Du Fu wrote some narrative poems in ballad form, such as “The Beautiful Ladies,” “Lament by the Riverside,” “To Minister Hua,” “A Song on Minister Hua Written Playfully,” “Song of Painting, a Gift Poem for General Cao Ba,” “Viewing a Painting of a Horse By General Cao at Secretary Wei’s Residence,” and “Watching a Sword Dancing Performed by the Disciples of Madam Gongsun.” In these poems, Du Fu not only adapts the writing style of the Spring and Autumn Annals to that of a poet-historian, he also lodges his own sentiments in the narrative content. This practice is a realization of “a mode of analogy and metaphor,” a comment he makes on Yuan Jie’s (723-772) “On Chongling.” They also fit Zhang Xuecheng’s (1738-1801) comment: “One must first become proficient in the main ideas of analogy and metaphor and the Six Principles before one can talk about the Spring and Autumn Annals.” The tradition of narration can be compatible with the tradition of lyricism. This can be seen in the works of poet-historian Du Fu: “analogy and metaphor are made by genuine thought and praise and criticism can be found in his poems in various forms.”
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