Once upon a time, more than a thousand years ago, there lived a poet in China named Bai Juyi (sometimes called Po Chu-I). Unlike most poets, however, Bai wasn’t just a poet: he was also a politician, a scholar-bureaucrat tasked with helping to guide China through a moment of immense social, military, and economic crisis. Did he succeed in this endeavor? No. He failed dramatically. But his and his country’s failure gave the world some of the most honest, most efficiently beautiful poetry ever written abo
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