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Friday, January 31, 2014

Poetry Friday--"Drinking Alone with the Moon"

Text of "Drinking Alone with the Moon," courtesy Wikimedia Commons. The poem should be read from right to left.

Today, is Chinese New Year. And today I'm featuring a poem by the classic Chinese poet, Li Bai. The poem is translated by Vikram Seth and is found in Three Chinese Poets [895.1 THR]:
Drinking Alone with the Moon

A pot of wine among the flowers
I drink alone, no friend with me.
I raise my cup to invite the moon.
He and my shadow and I make three.

The moon does not know how to drink;
My shadow mimes my capering;
But I'll make merry with them both--
And soon enough it will be Spring.

I sing--the moon moves to and fro.
I dance--my shadow leaps and sways.
Still sober, we exchange our joys.
Drunk--and we'll go our separate ways.

Let's pledge--beyond human ties--to be friends,
And meet where the Silver River ends.
Interestingly, there's a web page that has 32 translations of the poem. If you'd like to see the effect a translation has on your reception of a poem, or would like to study the art of translation, then this is the place to go! Most surprisingly, there's a translation of the poem by Vikram Seth dated 2001, that differs significantly from the translation above which is from 1992!

Tomorrow we will be having a Chinese New Year's celebration here at the Library at 1:00 pm. Happy New Year to you all!

There's plenty more poetry to explore at the Round-Up being held at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


  1. An interesting collection of translations, Diane! I find "Milky Way" anachronistic and prefer "Silver River" or "river of stars." Sad about the way he died!

  2. I prefer "Silver River" as it requires the reader to make the connection; "river of stars" is simply a metaphor and could be any stretch of stars.