Drinking Alone by Moonlight

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Drinking Alone by Moonlight
by Li Bai, translated by Arthur Waley
From More Translations from the Chinese (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1919).

 I

A cup of wine, under the flowering trees;
I drink alone, for no friend is near.
Raising my cup I beckon the bright moon,
For he, with my shadow, will make three men.
The moon, alas, is no drinker of wine;
Listless, my shadow creeps about at my side.
Yet with the moon as friend and the shadow as slave
I must make merry before the Spring is spent.
To the songs I sing the moon flickers her beams;
In the dance I weave my shadow tangles and breaks.
While we were sober, three shared the fun;
Now we are drunk, each goes his way.
May we long share our odd, inanimate feast,
And meet at last on the Cloudy River of the sky.[1]

 II

In the third month the town of Hsien-yang
Is thick-spread with a carpet of fallen flowers.
Who in Spring can bear to grieve alone?
Who, sober, look on sights like these?
Riches and Poverty, long or short life,
By the Maker of Things are portioned and disposed.
But a cup of wine levels life and death
And a thousand things obstinately hard to prove.
When I am drunk, I lose Heaven and Earth.
Motionless -- I cleave to my lonely bed.
At last I forget that I exist at all,
And at that moment my joy is great indeed.

 III

If High Heaven had no love for wine
There would not be a Wine Star in the sky.
If Earth herself had no love for wine,
There would not be a city called Wine Springs.
Since Heaven and Earth both love wine,\
I can love wine, without shame before God.
Clear wine was once called a Saint;
Thick wine was once called a "Sage."

Of Saint and Sage I have long quaffed deep,
What need for me to study spirits and hsien?
At the third cup I penetrate the Great Way;
A full gallon -- Nature and I area one . . .
But the things I feel when wine possesses my soul
I will never tell to those who are not drunk.


  1. Milky Way
This is a translation and has a separate copyright status from the original text. The license for the translation applies to this edition only.
Original:
This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.
 
Translation:
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1966, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 30 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.