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Arthur Waley (Arthur David Waley) Biography

(1889–1966), (Arthur David Waley), Bulletin, Cathay, One Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems

chinese translations genji poetry

British poet and translator, born in Tunbridge Wells, educated at King's College, Cambridge. In 1913 he became Binyon's assistant in the Sub-Department of Oriental Prints and Drawings at the British Museum. In the course of his work he learned Chinese and Japanese and developed a strong interest in the poems incorporated into paintings he dealt with. In 1917 a large number of his verse translations appeared in the Bulletin of the newly formed School Of Oriental Studies, where he later lectured. At this time he was closely acquainted with T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound; the latter's translations from the Chinese had appeared in Cathay of 1915, which, according to W. B. Yeats, ‘created the manner followed with more learning but less subtlety of rhythm by Arthur Waley’. One Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (1918) proved popular with a wide readership. He developed a verse-line in which stresses were matched to the occurrence of the Chinese monosyllables in his originals. The concrete precision of his imagery produces results which resemble the best poetry of Imagism. His many other translations include The Tale of the Genji (6 volumes, 192533), his version of Genji Monogatari, the eleventh-century Japanese novel by Murasaki Shikibu. Among his numerous historical and biographical studies are The Opium War through Chinese Eyes (1958) and The Poetry and Career of Li Po (1951). His wife Alison Waley published a memoir entitled A Half of Two Lives in 1982.

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