“Drinking Alone under the Moon,” by Li Bo
Translation by Paul Rouzer
Among the flowers, a single jug of wine;
I drink alone. No one close to me.
I raise my cup, invite the bright moon;
facing my shadow, together we make three.
The moon doesn’t know how to drink;
and my shadow can only follow my body.
But for a time I make moon and shadow my companions;
taking one’s pleasure must last until spring.
I sing — the moon wavers back and forth.
I dance — my shadow flickers and scatters.
When I’m sober we take pleasure together.
When I’m drunk, we each go our own ways.
I make an oath to journey forever free of feelings,
making an appointment with them to meet in the Milky Way afar.
Li Bo overwhelms one with the powerful yet simple use of imagery in this particular poem. You’ll see him walking alone, with a pot of wine, the moon shining above and his shadow dancing along. Loneliness is what drives him, hope is what is hidden. Maybe he laments for the dead past or he cries to see the uncertain future, but he is definitely, truly in the present. The moon, his shadow, his two close friends, vouch for it.
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