“Drinking Alone with the Moon,” “Song of Ch'ang Kan,” appear courtesy of Copper Canyon Press. Reprinted from Arthur Sze's The Silk Dragon: Translations from the Chinese, translated and introduced by Arthur Sze. © 2001 Arthur Sze.
To read Arthur Sze's translations of
Read our interview with Arthur Sze in this issue.
Read a selection of Sze's poetry in an earlier issue.
At bn.com, a complete list of titles by Arthur Sze _________
In an earlier issue, Sam Hamill's translations of Li Po
Li Po (701-762)
Translated by Arthur Sze
Drinking Alone with the Moon
Among the flowers with a jug of wine,
I pour, alone, lacking companions,
and, raising cup, invite the bright moon –
facing my shadow makes three people.
But the moon is unable to drink,
and my shadow just follows my body;
for a time, the moon leads the shadow –
be joyous as long as it's spring!
I sing, and the moon wavers.
I dance, and the shadow stumbles.
When sober, we were intimate friends;
now drunk, each of us separates.
May we be bound and travel without anxieties –
may we meet in the far Milky Way.
Song of Ch'ang Kan
When my hair just began to cover my forehead,
I was plucking flowers, playing in front of the gate.
You came along riding a bamboo stick horse,
circling and throwing green plums.
Together we lived in Ch'ang-kan Village
never suspicious of our love.
At fourteen, I became your wife,
my shy face never opened.
I lowered my head, faced the dark wall,
to your thousand calls, never a response.
At fifteen, I became enlightened,
was willing to be dust with you, ashes with you.
Always preserving you in my heart,
why should I ascend the terrace to look for your return?
At sixteen, you traveled far, through
Chü-t'ang Gorge, by rocks and swirling waters…
And in the fifth month, they are impassable,
monkeys wailing to the sky…
By our door where you left footprints,
mosses, one by one, grew over;
too deep to be swept away!
Leaves fall early in the autumn wind.
In lunar August, yellow butterflies
hovered in pairs over the west garden grasses.
My heart hurt at this sight, beauty flickering…
Sooner or later, if you return through the Three Pa district,
send home first. I will meet you,
ignore the long distance, even to Long Wind Sands.