Sunday Ramblings : Li Bai’s Songs

He was known as the drunk poet, a philanderer and a wanderer, but he was also known as one of the best poets in the Tang dynasty.

The room was dim. An orange sort of dim to be specific but that is because it is lit up by a sole lightbuld, hanging from a black wire in the centre of the room. Below it a table, wooden, old. By the window that was in the middle of the wall on the right of the room was an old man, ancient. He was in a silk dress. Looking out the window, he mumbles in chinese these words:

A pot of wine in the flower garden
but no friends drink with me
So I raise my cup to the bright moon
and to my shadow, which makes us three,
but the moon won't drink
and my shadow just creeps about my heels.
Yet in your company, moon and shadow,
I have a wild time till spring dies out.
I sing and the moon shudders.
My shadow staggers when I dance.
We have our fun while I can stand
then drift apart when I fall asleep.
Let's share this empty journey often
and meet again in the milky river of stars.

Born in 701 Li Bai’s ancestry was traced back to Li Gao, the founder of the Western Liang, a state of the 16 kingdoms of China. When he was 4, his family moved to Sichuan and was known to be a great swordsman even before he reached his twenties often winning swordfights. He began his days of wandering in 725 when he sailed down the Yang Tze river through Dong Ting lake to Nanjing. Li Bai spent many days of his life sailing alone and writing poems. 

He often sings this in the night, on a boat. He has been known to take lone boat rides on the river. He turns and smiles, welcomes us with words we cannot decipher and then he turns back to the window and drinks from his bottle. I have heard stories, that he was so drunk he fell overboard and drowned trying to embrace the moon reflected in the water. 

Jade steps are whitening with dew
My gauze stockings are soaked. It's too late.
I let down the crystal blind
and watch the glass clear autumn moon.

Facing wine, not aware it's getting dark
How many seasons have the tiny roses bloomed?
White clouds- unblown- fall apart.
In whose court has the bright moon dropped?

He was said to be quite a “modernist” in a sense; creative, and rebellious often times stretching the traditional rules of the verse.

To live in this world is to have a big dream;
why punish myself by working?
So I'm drunk all day.
I flop by the front door, dead to the world.
On waking, I peer at the garden
where a bird sings among the flowers
and wonder what season it is.
I think I hear him call, “mango birds sing in spring wind.”
I'm overcome and almost sigh.
But no, I pour another cup of wine,
sing at the top of my lungs and wait for the bright moon.
When my song dies out, I forget.

I sat down on the round marble table and hear him sing. The night rolls away and as it nears day I know I have only a moment for one last verse. I sat and listened tight. Drifting off to sleep as the cool breeze pats my cheeks goodnight. He canters this verse before fading out into the dark night, up into the stars on his boat.

I descend a green mountain at dusk,
the moon following me home.
Looking back at my path,
darkly, darkly, I see a blue mist hanging.
You take my hand and lead me to your farmer cottage
where a boy opens the thorn-branch gate.
Green bamboo leads into a quiet footpath;
emerald vines brush my passing clothes.

Happily chatting while enjoying our rest,
we share a gorgeous wine.
We sing about wind through pines
and don't stop till the stars are scarce.
I'm drunk, and you are happy.
Enraptured, we forget the world.


Yes, let's forget the world, you and I.
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