Sunday, April 23, 2017

Three by Li Bai



 [To Wang Lun]

I, Li Bai, anxious to leave.
Noise and commotion  ashore.
Peach Blossom Pool, kilos deep:
our friendship goes deepermore.

[Looking at Tianmen Mountain]

As my boat approached Tianmen Mountain
I could see the Yangtze cut.
East-running water zigzagged sharply in, sharply out.
Green cliffs rushed me on both sides of the river.
A windbent sail where the sun struck the water.

[Quiet Night]

The pool of moonlight:
frost surrounds my bed.
Look up, the moon’s bright,
bow down, homesick thoughts.

--tr. Duane Vorhees

1 comment:

  1. Li Bai (or Li Pai, Li Bo, Li Po) was an 8th-century Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty who wrote over a thousand poems, though many have not survived. His courtesy name (zi) was Taibai ("Great White," meaning the planet Venus), and he used the pseudonym (hao) "Qinglian Jushi" (Householder of Qianlian [Azure Lotus]). Like the Tang dyansty, he was descended from Li Gao, the founder of Western Liang (in what is now southeastern Gansu), and was born in Kyrgyzstan but at four moved to Jiangyou (near modern Chengdu, Sichuan province). He began writing poems before he was 10, He also became a skilled swordsman and killed several men in duels before he was 20, and then began traveling extensively. Eventually, he was summoned to Chang'an (modern Xian) to attend the court of emperor Xuanzong as a translator, but eventually resumed his journeys. In 744 he met the other great poet of the time, met Du Fu, and became close companions; they met one more time, the next year, and continued to write poems to about each other. A decade later, general An Lushan revolted, Xuanzong fled and abdicated, and the crown prince seized power. Li became an advisor to one of Xuanzong's other sons, who was defeated by his brother, and Li was imprisoned and and sentenced to death. When general Guo Ziyi offered to exchange his official rank for Li Bai's life, Li's sentence was commuted to exile in Yelang (in modern Guizhou) in the remote southwestern part of the empire, considered to be outside the main sphere of Chinese civilization. However, by the time he reached Wushan, he learned that he had been pardoned. He continued his travels while the domestic stife continued, but he became critically ill and died. In the 18th century translations of his poems began to appear in Europe, and in the 20th century Ezra Pound recreated many of his verses (Pound called him Rihaku" after the Japanese manner ). A common theme in modern poetry is the story that, inebriated, he drowned reaching from his boat to grasp the moon’s reflection in the river. Perhaps the legend of is death derived from one of his own poems, "Alone And Drinking Under The Moon" (here translated by Rewi Allen):

    Amongst the flowers I
    am alone with my pot of wine
    drinking by myself; then lifting
    my cup I asked the moon
    to drink with me, its reflection
    and mine in the wine cup, just
    the three of us; then I sigh
    for the moon cannot drink,
    and my shadow goes emptily along
    with me never saying a word;
    with no other friends here, I can
    but use these two for company;
    in the time of happiness, I
    too must be happy with all
    around me; I sit and sing
    and it is as if the moon
    accompanies me; then if I
    dance, it is my shadow that
    dances along with me; while
    still not drunk, I am glad
    to make the moon and my shadow
    into friends, but then when
    I have drunk too much, we
    all part; yet these are
    friends I can always count on
    these who have no emotion
    whatsoever; I hope that one day
    we three will meet again,
    deep in the Milky Way.

    ReplyDelete

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