Li Po

(701-762 / Chu / Kazakhstan)

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Drinking Alone


I take my wine jug out among the flowers
to drink alone, without friends.

I raise my cup to entice the moon.
That, and my shadow, makes us three.

But the moon doesn't drink,
and my shadow silently follows.

I will travel with moon and shadow,
happy to the end of spring.

When I sing, the moon dances.
When I dance, my shadow dances, too.

We share life's joys when sober.
Drunk, each goes a separate way.

Constant friends, although we wander,
we'll meet again in the Milky Way.

Li T'ai-po
tr. Hamil

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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  • Rookie - 20 Points John S (4/1/2014 12:47:00 PM)

    I love this poem! I would like to learn more about different styles of poems and different terminology. This poem is almost surreal. He's drinking with the moon, the flowers, and his shadow. He's enticing the moon with his ale. I guess it's called personification when you talk about the moon and your shadow like they're real people. This poem really takes you on a beautiful trip. The moon and his shadow are dancing together and having a splendid time, and when they part ways, they'll meet again in the milky way. Li Po would have been a fun guy to drink with. (Report) Reply

    Veteran Poet - 4,179 Points Frank Avon (10/20/2014 1:04:00 AM)

    Oh, and by the way, the poem doesn't rhyme - in Chinese or in this fine English translation. Go figure!

  • Veteran Poet - 4,179 Points Besa Dede (3/30/2014 3:35:00 PM)

    Beautiful poem. Li Po has a gentle way of describing even a simple event such as drinking in solitude :) (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 271 Points Birgitta Abimbola Heikka (3/30/2014 10:31:00 AM)

    They say it's not good to drink alone. I like the way the poem ended. My favorite verses are the last 3- When I sing the moon dances.... (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 6,773 Points Ramesh Rai (3/30/2014 8:38:00 AM)

    An emotion write of Li Po will certainly attract the new generation to mend. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 68 Points Joe Hughes (3/30/2013 6:10:00 AM)

    A great discovery for me.
    Thank you LiPo though you lived so long ago.
    Joe Hughes on Poemhunter and at joehughes.org.uk (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 234 Points Shahzia Batool (3/30/2012 9:01:00 AM)

    When the soul selects her own society, solitude turns into multitude......it's very beautiful...... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 163 Points Naida Nepascua Supnet (10/18/2010 8:46:00 AM)

    i remember in college when i found out about lipo, i collected his poems, i remember this one because i think it is funny, i love the poem and the poet. He is immortal. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 163 Points Terence George Craddock (3/30/2010 6:46:00 AM)

    Li Po chooses beautiful natural surroundings and sits among flowers to drink and contemplate long before a generation of flower power take this conception to symbolize a desire for peace and love not war. Shadow and moon are a powerful influence at night in settings of unique interactive meditation. A challenging theme for an artists charcoal oils or a poets pen.
    'We share life's joys when sober.
    Drunk, each goes a separate way.'
    True often when drinking companions are few, but drunken football or rugby teams, worse still when staunch fans of major domestic or international teams, get out of control; suddenly the energy of an earthquake or title wave can be unleashed with amazing force in confined places. Alcohol and friends are poetry of enticing potential. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 147 Points Ramesh T A (3/30/2010 2:38:00 AM)

    Wine effect with the influence of Moon though taken alone will surely make one meet Moon, shadow and self in the Milky Way! A wise way to enjoy with Nature! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 147 Points Joseph Poewhit (3/30/2009 2:06:00 PM)

    Finding a reason for drinking is the keyword. Some drink for drunkenness, while some wine and flowers beauty, and a silent friend, we find a reason. Seeking a beauty, in the flowing world of wines intoxication. Elevated, insightful things appear. BUT, to lie in an alleyway with an empty bottle - WELL LI PO WAS RIGHT. (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,499 Points Is It Poetry (3/30/2009 2:01:00 PM)

    It is a terrible shame that thier are not
    hundreds of these simple thoughts
    of friend ship inside this one head..iip
    on paper... (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,499 Points Michael Pruchnicki (3/30/2009 10:22:00 AM)

    Prissy comments about this poem in English translation having nothing to offer an expert reader and poet like Straw leaves me in dismay and feigned sorrow! What a bleeding pity for us all! He prefers classical music in the raw to the diluted versions on his iPod, mercy me! God help us, but I'll take a drunken Chinese poet any time to a pretentious wannabe nattering on about communication and translation and all that! (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,499 Points Kevin Straw (3/30/2009 7:05:00 AM)

    This does not do anything for me. Perhaps it's better in the original. I have an idea that translations are always less than the originals. Language, perhaps, contains elements of communication that are lost in translation - like classical music is 'thinned out' on downloading to an iPod. (Report) Reply

    Veteran Poet - 4,179 Points Frank Avon (10/20/2014 1:19:00 AM)

    Of course, something is always lost in translation - or when one is not sitting within the first ten rows
    of a symphony, unless the acoustics of the hall are very, very good. But there are good translations and not so good. This one, it seems to me, is a fine one. Li Po got lucky. And for those of us who can't afford the time or the $$$ to attend a first-rate orchestral concert every day, thank god for our old LPs or CDs or NPR or whatever is available. Get down off your high horse; my Shetland pony gives me a damned good ride.

  • Veteran Poet - 4,179 Points Bill Thomas (3/30/2009 3:02:00 AM)

    One of my favourites of all time... have a look at my version, 'Off His Face In The Flower Border', if you like. (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 4,179 Points Albert Wong (10/15/2008 11:26:00 PM)

    The poet, Tahir Baban, I think you haven't read Li Po poems before, he had created over ten thousands Chinese poems in his life. He is the best poet in China, he did the poetry very, very successful, the Emperor had ordered his queen to rub his shoes, the Prime Minister to prepare ink for him to write poems.Who had this power to draw the Emperor to do so? It was of course for Li Po only. This piece 'Drink alone' was his final poem before died by chasing the moon into the lake's water.He was a very great poet. (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 4,179 Points Coach Roth (3/30/2008 3:35:00 AM)

    Sorry, but I could write a thesis on the meaning of this poem...read it again carefully, the words alone should make you dance...but if you miss the dichotomy of being with friends and being alone...sharing spirits both alcoholic and ethereal...and the joy of loving one's self while not forsaking the world...then maybe you can't dance. Coach (Report) Reply

Read all 23 comments »

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