Treasure Island

Li Po

(701-762 / Chu / Kazakhstan)

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Autumn River Song


The moon shimmers in green water.
White herons fly through the moonlight.

The young man hears a girl gathering water-chestnuts:
into the night, singing, they paddle home together.

Li T'ai-po
tr. Hamil

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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  • John Tatum (12/21/2013 6:39:00 AM)

    Maybe they will become boyfriend and girlfriend now...the relationships for young people are mostly pure until they are ready to be married around 23-26 or even later now, the boy usually wants to secure a nice house before getting married. (Report) Reply

  • Manohar Bhatia (11/10/2013 4:46:00 AM)

    Its love in Autumn along the bank of a river.Li Po has written this small poem to touch any person in love with a beautiful setting of moon, river, herons. (Report) Reply

  • Krishnakumar Chandrasekar Nair (11/10/2013 2:16:00 AM)

    There is more to it than chest nuts gathered
    And the shimmering moon and herons white
    Hope this story had a happy ending
    And they have lived well ever after........

    Good one by Li and I invite all those reading this to my page too (Report) Reply

  • Paul Brookes (11/10/2011 4:42:00 AM)

    Very deep symbolism here, thanks to Michael Harmon for helping me better understand the poem. (Report) Reply

  • Gordon Tseng (11/10/2011 3:45:00 AM)

    Lipo


    Born a Taoist brandishing a sword under the wild pine,
    He still could not easily cut and cross the Confucian line.
    Unable to bring the cloudy world his political sunshine,
    He freely rowed a boat with his sword into poetry and wine.


    -a poem about one of the greatest poets in Chinese history, from GOD BLESS NOT ONLY AMERICA by Gordon Tseng (Report) Reply

  • Michael Pruchnicki (11/10/2009 4:45:00 PM)

    Yes, there is a lot going on here, and kudos to Michael Harmon for his diligent research into the symbols that underlie the imagery of the poem. And even the resolute Kevin Straw is on his best game here with a perceptive interpretation of 'Autumn River.' But let's pause and consider first a few things that crossed my mind about both Li Po and his 'Autumn River Song.'

    Is it possible that a much older Li Po (the speaker or persona) is thinking back on his youthful dalliances? I always have the impression that Li Po's persona in his poetry pretty much reflects the poet himself. He does not seem to contrive much of a fictional character that he uses to project his thoughts or feelings. What you read in this case is all there is to say - a man in his dotage identifies with the herons in flight as he recognizes his oncoming death and perceives a beauty in existence almost beyond comprehension! (Report) Reply

  • Michael Harmon (11/10/2009 12:47:00 PM)

    Much going on here, as one might expect from Li Po.
    A bit of previous knowledge and online research led to the following.

    In China: both the moon and the autumn season are symbolic of the female principle;
    the heron is a symbol of strength, purity, and long life;
    the water chestnut is a symbol of unity;
    the moon was believed to reach its zenith of beauty in the autumn season;
    and the word 'Heron', in Chinese, sounds a lot like the word for 'path or way.'
    White, generally, of course, is symbolic of purity, chastity. (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (11/10/2009 6:58:00 AM)

    This is a very moving evocation of love's beginning. The green water, the white herons, all under the spell of the moonlight, create a magical atmosphere in which love can flourish. There is sublime tenderness here, the poet is smiling like the moonlight on a burgeoning love. Water - that ancient symbol of renewal - is heard by the young man, and we hear it in the sound of the boat taking the young couple to their destiny. One could unravel the dynamics of this poem for a long time. I cannot remember being so taken by so short a poem. To paraphrase Kallie Madison's comment 'this poem is great, and I love it'. (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A (11/10/2009 6:28:00 AM)

    Beauty of Nature and sweet song give peace in Nature! A wonderful poem relaxing mind! (Report) Reply

Read all 12 comments »

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