Sunthon Phu
(1786 - 1855)
He was a drunk, a vagrant and a womaniser ... but what a great writer he was! "The influence of Sunthon Phu has been felt by poets through the years," say, Anake Nawigamune, a popular writer of history. "His use of internal and external rhyme is exquisite, like in Phra Aphaimanee. And there are lessons to be learned in his work." "His work broadens our view of the world and prescribes a course of action for Thais," says Chalong Soantravanich, a history professor at Chulalongkorn University. "Some stories have morals about what we should and shouldn't do in his this world. They teach us he value of money and diligence. They give importance to the practical." Little, however, is known of his life. He was born in 1786, during the First Reign. Though he was a mature man for much of the Second Reign, it wasn't until 1820 that he attracted the attention of Rama II, who would become his greatest patron. From 1820 to 1824, Sunthon was the king's favourite poet and he wrote many poems during this period, including Phra Aphbimani and Khun Chang Khun Paen. But when Rama II died, Sunthon fell out of royal favour, and he began to lead a wandering life, roaming about the country at times and entering the priesthood at times. During this period, Sunthon wrote most of his "nirat," or travelling poems. These poems tell us much of what we know about Sunthon's life. From these poems, we know that travelling in Siam in he old days was quite uncomfortable, unless you were part of a royal party travelling on elephant back or on water. Sunthon Phu's journeys were tiring, and he often complained about the wind and waves, mosquitoes, wild beasts, the heavy traffic on the roads or paths, hunger and lack of a place to stay. Yet experts say that to have captured the details that Sunthon did means that he must have made each trip many times. It was part of hit curiosity to know all about his surroundings. "Many of his poems perform he work of science," says Taweesak Lomlim, a social scientist from Thaksin University. "They are full of information about the world around us, about the stars, the sea, the dry, the land and society, but they are pure poetry." He has given us so much information about his world, that experts are still learning new things about his work every day. Sunthon Phu was Thailand's greatest poet, his life spanned four reigns, and his body of work is so large that we are still studying his writings today," says Pompirom Chiengkul, an assistant professor of history at Kasdsart Univertity. May be some day, we will also learn more about his life.
-- From Nation Junior