Literary scenes from the East and the West

 

Summer therapy project, part three

What is a challenge if it is too easily accomplished? Why not decorate the salvaged-wood, no-plan bookshelf?

Who suggested the idea is forgotten. Whether it was one of the kidlingers, or my wife, or myself is not important. But through the summer week nights and weekends a conversation took place as to decorating the bookshelf.

Since the bookshelf was intended to house schoolbooks, I decided to draw a scene inspired from Eastern literature and a scene inspired from Western literature.

Earlier in the year I had been reading Tu Fu, the autobiography of a Chinese poet, translated by Florence Ayscough. The author records Tu Fu’s reflection of his early years,

“Aged nine, I wrote large characters
There were enough to fill a hard-bottomed bag.”

Tu Fu, from “Years of Strength Travel”

I intended on drawing a scene from that book. But decided upon Li Po instead. One poem captured my imagination.

I raise my cup to invite bright moon, . . .

I sing and the moon dances,
I dance, and my shadow tumbles
Sober, we share the joy we knew…”

from Li Po’s “Drinking Alone under the Moon”

I found a couple paintings of Li Po on the internet. That became the drawing for the Eastern side of the bookshelf.

For the Western side of the bookshelf, I selected the story of Daphne and the laurel tree. Years ago I acquired Myths and Enchantment Tales by Margaret Evens Price. During the first month of the safer-at-home orders from the state I rediscovered the book. The story of Cupid and Apollo caught my eye because of a detail I had overlooked. Peneus, the river god and father of Daphne, turned his daughter in to a tree in the forest to protect her from a love-struck Apollo. Price’s lovely illustration was the source of the inspiration. And gave me an excuse to play the woodgrain of the side boards into the illustration.

 

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