As Liu has concluded, Guo Moruo (1892—1978) was a celebrated poet, translator and playwright in China. His most well-known poetry collection is The Goddesses, which is seen as the landmark of the Chinese modern literature. The poems were written when Guo was studying abroad in Japan during 1916—1921. Guo has once said in his own diary that “It was Whitman who made me crazy about writing poems. It was in the year when the May 4th Movement broke out that I first touched his Leaves of Grass. Reading his poems, I came to see what to write and how to voice my personal troubles and the nation’s sufferings. His poems almost made me mad. . . . Thus, it was possible for me to have the first poetry collection The Goddesses published.” 1From the words, we can see that Guo’s Goddesses was highly influenced by Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
Guo adapted Whitman’s concept of hero in a way that he also praised the common people; however, Guo chose some very powerful individuals as the heroes in his poetry，and used the image of Abraham Lincoln as a symbol to express his admiration for the hero who fought for democracy. The reason why Guo adapted Whitman’s heroism in this way is that China was a semicolonial and semifeudal country at that time, which was opposite to Whitman’s social and political situations.
Several study has been done to analyze Whitman’s influence to Guo’s Goddesses in different directions. Liu Rongqiang has concluded the similarities and differences between Guo Moruo’s The Goddesses and Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. 2The major similarity is that both Guo and Whitman exalted enthusiastically and progressively the idea of democracy, individual emancipation and new technologies. Secondly, Guo adapted Whitman’s poetic techniques and reformed forms of poetry. Thirdly, the pantheistic idea has existed in both works. What’s more, Whitman and Guo both expressed their profound love of nature. For the difference, it manly lies on the way the poets expressed their ideals. Whitman expressed his ideals in a very realistic imagery, while Guo express the ideals very carefully through some imaginary image, like phoenix. Another difference between Guo and Whitman’s work is that Guo’s poems still remain some conventional features of the poetry style, like the specific rhythmic patterns. In Ou Hong’s article, she has revealed the similarities of the pantheistic ideas between Whitman and Taoism.3 Viewing the Taoism as a bridge for Guo Moruo to accept the pantheistic idea, she explained how Whitman’s pantheistic ideas influenced Guo Moruo.
From these two articles, we can draw a general idea that how Whiman’s poetry influenced Guo’s work. However, the two articles mainly focus on the similarities of Whitman’s poetry and Guo’s poetry in order to explain the influence of Whitman on Guo Moruo. In my study, I will maily focus on the difference of the two works in order to see that when a new work has been introduced into a different environment, how it will change and how the people will adapt the thought in the new work.
To answer the question that how did Guo adapt Whitman’s “hero” to a Chinese Context, first of all, we should figure out the similarity of the concept of hero in the two works. Whitman praised the common people as physically and mentally strong creature, while Guo has also praised the farmers and workers as diligent and elegant people. For example. In Song of Myself, Whitman(1965) writes that: “I celebrate myself,/ and sing myself, /And what I assume you shall assume, /For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”4 From the poet, we can see that Whitman does not consider the narrator to represent a single individual. The identity are the common people rather than a hero. From Song of Myself, Whitman praised the individual. He praised the individuals as beautiful and unique creatures. Whitman thought that all…