Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

January 26, 2007

Li Bai drinking alone (with the moon, his shadow, & 43 translators)

The Tang poet Li Bai–a.k.a. Li Po, Li Bo and the Poet Immortal–left us over 1,000 poems. Besides these, he is also known by the way it is said he died. He supposedly drowned drunk, trying to embrace the moon’s reflection in the Yangtze River.

Below are 41 English translations (from 43 translators (and counting)) to one of his three poems most commonly titled with some variation of “Drinking Alone in the Moonlight” or “Drinking Alone with the Moon.” I have ordered them in rough chronological order, and put the date of each translation, or my best approximation, before it. If you know I am wrong about a date (or anything else, for that matter), please let me know and I will make the correction.
 
 

_____

 
 

by 李 白 (Li Bai) (701-762)

 
 

花間一壺酒
獨酌無相親
舉杯邀明月
對影成三人
月既不解飲
影徒隨我身
暫伴月將影
行樂須及春
我歌月徘徊
我舞影零亂
醒時同交歡
醉後各分散
永結無情遊
相期邈雲漢

 
 

_____

 
 
tr Herbert A. Giles ~1900?
 
 
Last Words
 
 
An arbor of flowers and a kettle of wine:
Alas! In the bowers no companion is mine.
Then the moon sheds her rays on my goblet and me,
And my shadow betrays we’re a party of three!
Thou’ the moon cannot swallow her share of the grog,
And my shadow must follow wherever I jog,
Yet their friendship I’ll borrow and gaily carouse,
And laugh away sorrow while spring-time allows.
See the moon–how she dances response to my song;
See my shadow–it dances so lightly along!
While sober I feel, you are both my good friends;
While drunken I reel, our companionship ends,
But we’ll soon have a greeting without a goodbye,
At our next merry meeting away in the sky.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr W.A.P.Martin ~1900?
 
 
On Drinking Alone by Moonlight
 
 
Here are flowers and here is wine,
But where’s a friend with me to join
Hand in hand and heart to heart
In one full cup before we part?

Rather than to drink alone,
I’ll make bold to ask the moon
To condescend to lend her face
The hour and the scene to grace.

Lo, she answers, and she brings
My shadow on her silver wings;
That makes three, and we shall be.
I ween, a merry company

The modest moon declines the cup,
But shadow promptly takes it up,
And when I dance my shadow fleet
Keeps measure with my flying feet.

But though the moon declines to tipple
She dances in yon shining ripple,
And when I sing, my festive song,
The echoes of the moon prolong.

Say, when shall we next meet together?
Surely not in cloudy weather,
For you my boon companions dear
Come only when the sky is clear.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Ezra Pound, 1915
 
 
Amongst the flowers is a pot of wine
 
 
Amongst the flowers is a pot of wine
I pour alone but with no friend at hand
So I lift the cup to invite the shining moon,
Along with my shadow we become party of three

The moon although understands none of drinking, and
The shadow just follows my body vainly
Still I make the moon and the shadow my company
To enjoy the springtime before too late

The moon lingers while I am singing
The shadow scatters while I am dancing
We cheer in delight when being awake
We separate apart after getting drunk

Forever will we keep this unfettered friendship
Till we meet again far in the Milky Way
 
 

_____

 
 
tr W.J.B.Fletcher, 1919(?)
 
 
We Three
 
 
One pot of wine amid the Flowers
Alone I pour, and none with me.
The cup I lift; the Moon invite;
Who with my shadow makes us three.
The moon then drinks without a pause.
The shadow does what I begin.
The shadow, Moon and I in fere
Rejoice until the spring come in.
I sing: and wavers time the moon.
I dance: the shadow antics too.
Our joys we share while sober still.
When drunk, we part and bid adieu.
Of loveless outing this the pact,
Which we all swear to keep for aye.
The next time that we meet shall be
Beside you distant milky way.
 
 
 
[note: Douglas McNeal points out that this last line may have been written: "Beside yon distant milky way."]
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Arthur Waley, 1919
 
 
Drinking Alone by Moonlight
 
 
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.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Florence Ayscough & Amy Lowell, 1921
 
 
Drinking Alone in the Moonlight
 
 
A pot of wine among flowers.
I alone, drinking, without a companion.
I lift the cup and invite the bright moon.
My shadow opposite certainly makes us three.
But the moon cannot drink,
And my shadow follows the motions of my body in vain.
For the briefest time are the moon and my shadow my companions.
Oh, be joyful! One must make the most of Spring.
I sing–the moon walks forward rhythmically;
I dance, and my shadow shatters and becomes confused.
In my waking moments we are happily blended.
When I am drunk, we are divided from one another and scattered.
For a long time I shall be obligated to wander without intention.
But we will keep our appointment by the far-off Cloudy River.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Amy Lowell &/or Florence Ayscough
 
 
Drinking Alone in the Moonlight
 
 
A pot of wine among flowers.
I alone, drinking, without a companion.
I lift the cup and invite the bright moon.
My shadow opposite certainly makes us three.
But the moon cannot drink,
And my shadow follows the motions of my body in vain.
For the briefest time are the moon and my shadow my companions.
Oh, be joyful! One must make the most of Spring.
I sing–the moon walks forward rhythmically;
I dance, and my shadow shatters and becomes confused.
In my waking moments, we are happily blended.
When I am drunk, we are divided from one another and scattered.
For a long time I shall be obliged to wander without intention;
But we will keep our appointment by the far-off Cloudy River.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Shigeyoshi Obata, 1922
 
 
Three with the Moon and his Shadow
 
 
With a jar of wine I sit by the flowering trees.
I drink alone, and where are my friends?
Ah, the moon above looks down on me;
I call and lift my cup to his brightness.
And see, there goes my shadow before me.
Ho! We’re a party of three, I say,–
Though the poor moon can’t drink,
And my shadow but dances around me,
We’re all friends to-night,
The drinker, the moon and the shadow.
Let our revelry be suited to the spring!

I sing, the wild moon wanders the sky.
I dance, my shadow goes tumbling about.
While we’re awake, let us join in carousal;
Only sweet drunkenness shall ever part us.
Let us pledge a friendship no mortals know,
And often hail each other at evening
Far across the vast and vaporous space!
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Witter Bynner, 1929(?)
 
 
Drinking Alone with the Moon
 
 
From a pot of wine among the flowers
I drank alone. There was no one with me–
Till, raising my cup, I asked the bright moon
To bring me my shadow and make us three.
Alas, the moon was unable to drink
And my shadow tagged me vacantly;
But still for a while I had these friends.
To cheer me through the end of spring . . .
I sang. The moon encouraged me.
I danced. My shadow tumbled after.
As long as I knew, we were boon companions.
And then I was drunk, and we lost one another.
. . . Shall goodwill ever be secure?
I watch the long road of the River of Stars.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Robert Payne, 1958
 
 
Drinking Alone under Moonlight
 
 
Holding a jug of wine among the flowers,
And drinking alone, not a soul keeping me company,
I raise my cup and invite the moon to drink with me,
And together with my shadow we are three.
But the moon does not know the joy of drinking,
And my shadow only follows me about.
Nevertheless I shall have them as my companions,
For one should enjoy life at such a time.
The moon loiters as I sing my songs,
My shadow looks confused as I dance.
I drink with them when I am awake
And part with them when I am drunk.
Henceforward may we always be feasting,
And may we meet in the Cloudy River of Heaven.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr William Acker, 1967
 
 
Amidst the Flowers a Jug of Wine
 
 
Amidst the flowers a jug of wine–
I pour alone lacking companionship,
So raising the cup I invite the moon,
Then turn to my shadow which makes three of us.
Because the moon does not know how to drink
My shadow merely follows my body.
The moon has brought the shadow to keep me company a while,
The practice of mirth should keep pace with spring.
I start a song and the moon begins to reel,
I rise and dance and the shadow moves grotesquely.
While I’m still conscious let’s rejoice with one another,
After I’m drunk let each one go his way.
Let us bind ourselves for ever for passionless journeyings.
Let us swear to meet again far in the Milky Way.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr J.C. Cooper, 1972
 
 
The Little Fete
 
 
I take a bottle of wine and I go to drink it among the flowers.
We are always three–
counting my shadow and my friend the shimmering moon.
Happily the moon knows nothing of drinking,
and my shadow is never thirsty.

When I sing, the moon listens to me in silence.
When I dance, my shadow dances too.
After all festivities the guests must depart;
This sadness I do not know.
When I go home,
the moon goes with me and my shadow follows me.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Irving Yucheng Lo, 1975
 
 
Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon
 
 
A pot of wine among the flowers:
I drink alone, no kith or kin near.
I raise my cup to invite the moon to join me;
It and my shadow make a party of three.
Alas, the moon is unconcerned about drinking,
And my shadow merely follows me around.
Briefly I cavort with the moon and my shadow:
Pleasure must be sought while it is spring.
I sing and the moon goes back and forth,
I dance and my shadow falls at random.
While sober we seek pleasure in fellowship;
When drunk we go each our own way.
Then let us pledge a friendship without human ties
And meet again at the far end of the Milky Way.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Rewi Alley, 1980
 
 
Alone and Drinking Under the Moon
 
 
Amongst the flowers I
am alone with my pot of wine
drinking by myself; then lifting
my cup I asked the moon
to drink with me, its reflection
and mine in the wine cup, just
the three of us; then I sigh
for the moon cannot drink,
and my shadow goes emptily along
with me never saying a word;
with no other friends here, I can
but use these two for company;
in the time of happiness, I
too must be happy with all
around me; I sit and sing
and it is as if the moon
accompanies me; then if I
dance, it is my shadow that
dances along with me; while
still not drunk, I am glad
to make the moon and my shadow
into friends, but then when
I have drunk too much, we
all part; yet these are
friends I can always count on
these who have no emotion
whatsoever; I hope that one day
we three will meet again,
deep in the Milky Way.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Barry Hughart, 1984
 
 
from his novel Bridge of Birds
 
 
Among the flowers, with a flask of wine,
I drink all alone–no one to share.
Raising my flask, I welcome the moon,
And my shadow joins us, making a threesome.

As I sing, the moon seems to sway back and forth;
As I dance, my shadow goes flopping about.
As long as we’re sober, we’ll enjoy one another,
And when we get drunk, we’ll go our own ways.

Thus we’ll pursue our own avatars,
And we’ll all meet again in the River of Staaaaaaars!
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Burton Watson, 1986
 
 
Drinking Alone Under the Moon
 
 
A jug of wine among flowers
I drink alone, for there’s no companion.
I raise the cup and invite the moon,
With my shadow we become three.
Of course the moon does not understand drinking;
The shadow purposelessly traces my body.
But I accompany the moon and the shadow anyway
The pursuit of pleasures must continue until the spring.
The moon wanders as I sing;
The shadow rattles when I dance.
Still sober, we share our joys;
After drunk, each goes its way.
Permanently joined for feelingless journeys–
Perhaps to the remote Milky Way.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Innes Herdan, 1987
 
 
Drinking Alone With The Moon
 
 
From a pot of wine among the flowers
I drank alone. There was no one with me –
Till, raising my cup, I asked the bright moon
To bring me my shadow and make us three.
Alas, the moon was unable to drink
And my shadow tagged me vacantly;
But still for a while I had these friends
To cheer me through the end of spring….
I sang. The moon encouraged me.
I danced. My shadow tumbled after.
As long as I knew, we were boon companions.
And then I was drunk, and we lost one another.
…Shall goodwill ever be secure?
I watch the long road of the River of Stars.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Daniel Palkowski
 
 
Among the flowering vines:
A flask of wine
Alone, I sip..no one to share my reverie
So I raise my cup, beckon the moon come down to dine
And see my shadow flicker forth–
From one is born a band of three!
Since the moon cannot enjoy my drink
And my shadow only follows my weaving hand
These fleeting friends will do, I think
At least while spring still warms the land!
I sing: the moon reels above
I dance: my shadow flickers wildly about
As long as I can stay awake
This party of three will joyfully shout..
Soon drunken sleep will quell our fun
And my trio will separate back into one
Cold hearted friends, we’ll pass each other by
And wave by the light of the river in the sky..
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Elling O. Eide, 1994
 
 
Drinking Alone in the Moonlight
 
 
Beneath the blossoms with a pot of wine,
No friends at hand, so I poured alone;
I raised my cup to invite the moon,
Turned to my shadow, and we became three.
Now the moon had never learned about drinking,
And my shadow had merely followed my form,
But I quickly made friends with the moon and my shadow;
To find pleasure in life, make the most of the spring.

Whenever I sang, the moon swayed with me;
Whenever I danced, my shadow went wild.
Drinking, we shared our enjoyment together;
Drunk, then each went off on his own.
But forever agreed on dispassionate revels,
We promised to meet in the far Milky Way.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Stephen Owen, 1996
 
 
Drinking Alone by Moonlight
 
 
Here among flowers one flask of wine,
with no close friends, I pour it alone.

I lift cup to bright moon, beg its company,
then facing my shadow, we become three.

The moon has never known how to drink;
my shadow does nothing but follow me.

But with moon and shadow as companions a while,
this joy I find must catch spring while it’s here.

I sing, and the moon just lingers on;
I dance, and my shadow flails wildly.

When still sober we share friendship and pleasure,
then, utterly drunk, each goes his own way–

Let us join to roam beyond human cares
and plan to meet far in the river of stars.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Winifred Galbraith, 1997
 
 
Drinking under the Moon
 
 
The wine among the flowers,
O lonely me!
Ah moon, aloof and shining,
I drink to thee.

Beside me, see my shadow,
Rejoice we three!
Moon, why remote and distant?
Dance with my shade and me.

                                    *

This joy shall last for ever,
Moon, hear my lay,
My shade and I can caper
Like clouds away.

And drunk we are united
(But lone by day)
Let’s fix eternal trysting
In the Milky Way.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Xu Yuanchong, 1997
 
 
Drinking Alone under the Moon
 
 
Amid the flowers, from a pot of wine
I drink alone beneath the bright moonshine,
I raise my cup to invite the Moon who blends
Her light with my Shadow and we’re three friends.
The Moon does not know how to drink her share;
In vain my Shadow follows me here and there.
Together with them for the time I stay
And make merry before spring’s spent away.
I sing and the Moon lingers to hear my song;
My Shadow’s a mess while I dance along.
Sober, we three remain cheerful and gay;
Drunken, we part and each may go his way.
Our friendship will outshine all earthly love,
Next time we’ll meet beyond the stars above.
 
 

_____

 
 
Drinking Alone by Moonlight
 
 
Among the flowers a pot of wine,
I drink alone; no friend is by,
I raise my cup, invite the moon,
And my shadow; now we are three.
But the moon knows nothing of drinking,
And my shadow only apes my doings;
Yet moon and shadow shall be my company.
Spring is the time to have fun.
I sing, the moon lingers,
I dance, my shadow tangles,
While I’m still sober, we are gay together,
When I get drunk, we go our different ways.
We pledge a friendship no mortals know,
And swear to meet on heaven’s Silver River.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Sun Dayu, 1997
 
 
Drinking Alone under the Moon
 
 
With a jug of wine among the flowers,
I drink alone sans company.
To the moon aloft I raise my cup,
With my shadow to form a group of three.
As the moon doth not drinking ken,
And shadow mine followeth my body,
I keep company with them twain,
While spring is here to make myself merry.
The moon here lingereth while I sing,
I dance and my shadow spreadeth in rout.
When sober I am, we jolly remain,
When drunk I become, we scatter all about.
Let’s knit our carefree tie of the good old day;
We may meet above sometime at the milky way.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Sam Hamill, 2000
 
 
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.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Vikram Seth, 2001
 
 
Drinking Alone with the Moon
 
 
A pot of wine among the flowers.
I drink alone, no friend with me.
I raise my cup to invite the moon.
He and my shadow and I make three.

The moon does not know how to drink;
My shadow mimes my capering;
But I’ll make merry with them both–
And soon enough it will be Spring.

I sing–the moon moves to and fro.
I dance–my shadow leaps and sways.
Still sober, we exchange our joys.
Drunk–and we’ll go our separate ways.

Let’s pledge–beyond human ties–to be friends,
And meet where the Silver River ends.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Dongbo
 
 
Solitary Moonlight Drunk
 
 
One jug of wine
                a thicket of flowers,
A solitary drunk
                no friends around.
I raise my cup
                urge Moon to drink,
But Moon has no stomach for wine!
Shadow stalks my tettering form,
Moon and Shadow
                my transient chums,
The three of us
                giddy as springtime,
I sing out!
                Startled!
                                Moon stops dead,
I jitterbug!
                Shadow boogies drunkenly.
Sober we’re bosom friends,
                Pickled we scatter.
I yearn to trek to the frigid beyond,
And together plunge into Star River.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Paul Rouzer
 
 
Drinking Alone Under the Moon
 
 
Among the flowers, a single jug of wine;
I drink alone. No one close to me.
I raise my cup, invite the bright moon;
facing my shadow, together we make three.
The moon doesn’t know how to drink;
and my shadow can only follow my body.
But for a time I make moon and shadow my companions;
taking one’s pleasure must last until spring.
I sing–the moon wavers back and forth.
I dance–my shadow flickers and scatters.
When I’m sober we take pleasure together.
When I’m drunk, we each go our own ways.
I make an oath to journey forever free of feelings,
making an appointment with them to meet in the Milky Way afar.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Keith Holyoak, 2005
 
 
Drinking Alone Under the Moon
 
 
Alone among the flowers with a jug of wine,
Without a single friend to drink with me,
I lift my glass and invite the bright moon to come
Join in—now the moon, my shadow and I make three.

I know the moon is not a famous drinker,
My shadow’s toast no more than mimicry,
And yet for a little while the three of us
Carouse in springtime camaraderie.

I sing, and the moon sways to and fro in rhythm;
I dance, and my shadow floats in harmony.
Drinking, we share our joys with one another;
After, we’ll need to find them separately.

Let’s meet again, at the end of the Silver River,
And there, my friends, resume our revelry!
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Tony Barnstone & Chou Ping, 2005
 
 
Drinking Alone by Moonlight
 
 
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.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Zhang Tingshen & Wei Bosi, 2005
 
 
Drinking Alone under the Moon
 
 
A jug of wine amidst the flowers:
Drinking alone, with no friend near.
Raising my cup, I beckon the bright moon;
My shadow included, we’re a party of three.
Although the moon’s unused to drinking
And the shadow only apes my every move
For the moment I’ll just take them as they are,
Enjoying spring when spring is here.
Reeling shadow, swaying moon
Attend my dance and song.
Still sober, we rejoice together;
Drunk, each takes his leave.
To seal forever such unfettered friendship
Let’s rendezvous beyond the Milky Way.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr David Landrum 2007
 
 
We Three
 
 
Some wine, a flower garden, I alone
To pour the wine and drink it here, unknown.
I lift the cup aloft and I invite
The Moon to drink with me. To my delight,
She joins me—then my shadow makes us three!
Together we indulge in revelry.
The Moon drinks, and my shadow—what a laugh!—
Now imitates me down the moonlit path!
I dance, my shadow dances with me there.
Still sober, here a moment’s joy we share.
When drunk, we part as friends and say farewell
But make a promise none would dare to tell:
To meet again and drink another day,
Not long from now, beyond the Milky Way!
 
 

_____

 
 
tr 2007
 
 
By Myself Pouring Wine as the Moon Shines
 
 
From the filled jug of wine left within the blossoming bed,
I pour with no love nor family by. Loneliness sets in.

Drawn to its beam, I raise a brimming cup and face the moon–
an encounter that spawns a shadow. We’ve become a trio.

The aloof moon, as of late, has been declining to imbibe
and the faithful shaver, my shadow, follows my every move.

For tonight, anyway, we three will be boon companions.
Turned on, we’ll be stepping out. Spring leaves us too soon.

I try to sing, and the moon starts its little swaying move,
which gets me dancing till my poor shadow’s all confused.

With so much in common, we rouse to the time of our lives
until, in a drunken fog, we let go, dispensed into a cured world.

Ever cast to find passion in an age of fruitless wandering,
our feelings are mutual. I’ll see you in that cosmic cloudy dynasty.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Carol Saba, 2007
 
 
Li Bai’s Solitary Considerations in the Moonlight
 
 
A bottle found on the garden path
is invitation enough for friendless me.
I beckon the moon and smile at my shadow
for I’m no longer alone; now we are three.

The moon is not much of a drinking companion,
my shadow can’t share an original thought;
yet I will spend time with these as my friends
to relish the waning spring eve as I ought.

I sing to the moon, it sways to my song,
I dance with my shadow, it bounces along;
awake, we three are the same as one
but drunk I fall back to being alone.

Eternally bound to the mythic journey
we each have our place on the way to the stars.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Luisetta Mudie, 2007?
 
 
Drinking alone
 
 
Here among the flowers I have a flask of wine
To pour out just for me: no company tonight.
I raise my glass instead to the bright moon,
And my shadow makes the third.

Though the moon declines, says she can’t hold her liquor,
And my shadow dogs me stupidly wherever I turn,
I’ll make do with these strange companions,
And enjoy the fleeting music of spring.

I sing, and the moon wavers, as if at a crossroads.
My shadow dances along with me.
Friends might keep their pleasures sober
Parting once drunkenness sets in

Or they might swear to keep an otherworld feast–
Time-honoured, out beyond the star-cloud river.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Robert S Whilde, 2008?
 
 
Alone; Drinking in the Moonlight
 
 
Amidst the flowers, with a jug of wine,
I drink alone, without friends.

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

Sigh. Because the moon cannot drink,
My shadow silently follows.

But the moon has brought my shadow
And I shall travel with them, happy ‘till the end of spring.

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

While I’m conscious let us rejoice together;
After I’m drunk each will go his way.

Let us pledge a friendship few mortals know,
And bind ourselves, for ever, to this journeying;
Let us swear to meet again in the clouded river of the stars
 
 

_____

 
 
tr David Lunde, 2008
 
 
Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon
 
 
One jar of wine among the flowers,
no dear friend to drink with:
I offer a cup to the moon.
With my shadow there are three of us,
but the moon doesn’t know how to drink,
and my shadow can’t help but follow me.
Still, I’ll make do with their company,
have fun and make the most of spring.
I sing and the moon rolls around,
I dance and my shadow leaps about.
While I’m lively we enjoy each other,
when I get too drunk we go our own ways.
Let’s keep this undemanding friendship
till we join together in the far Cloud River.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Chris Weimer, 2009
 
 
Among the flowers with a jug of wine
I drink alone no friends for company
I lift my cup inviting the bright moon
Its face my shadow and myself make three

Alas the moon does not know how to drink
And all my shadow does is follow me
I beg you moon and shadow stay a while
And play with me before the spring can flee

I sing the moon’s glow flickers too and fro
I dance my shadow falls in frantic play
When sober we shared happiness together
Now drunk farewells are all we’ve left to say

Pledge never ending level headed friendship
We’ll meet again on the far Milky Way.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Ying Sun, 2009
 
 
Drinking Alone with the Moon
 
 
From a wine pot amidst the flowers,
I drink alone without partners.
To invite the moon I raise my cup.
We’re three, as my shadow shows up.
Alas, the moon doesn’t drink.
My shadow follows but doesn’t think.
Still for now I have these friends,
To cheer me up until the spring ends.
I sing; the moon wanders.
I dance; the shadow scatters.
Awake, together we have fun.
Drunk, separately we’re gone.
Let’s be boon companions forever,
Pledging, in heaven, we’ll be together.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Bill Thomas, 2009
 
 
Off His Face in the Flower Border
 
 
Sitting in the flowers with a bottle of wine,
alone, I pour another glass
and raise it to salute the moon,
who, with my shadow, makes three of us.

The moon’s not drinking;
my shadow’s a copycat;
let’s have fun anyway,
enjoy Spring while we can.

I sing: the moon dances.
I dance: my shadow staggers.
While I drink, they’re my best friends:
when I fall over, they scatter.

Promise me we’ll be friends for ever,
do this again with the stars in heaven.
 
 

_____

 
 
tr Steven D. Owyoung, 2011
 
 
Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon
 
 
Amidst flowers with a pot of wine,
I drink alone, companionless.
Raising a cup, I invite the bright moon
To add my shadow, and we become three.
But the moon does not drink
And the shadow simply follows me.
Moon and shadow are but fleeting partners,
Yet one must find joy in life.
As I sing, the moon lingers;
I dance, and the shadow stumbles after.
While sober, we shared our happiness;
Now drunk, we go our separate ways.
Forever bound, roaming without a care,
We will meet again beyond the Milky Way.
 
 

_____

 
 

(extra credit)

 
 

George Thorogood’s I Drink Alone

 
 

Duration 5:45

 
 

_____

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50 Comments »

  1. ha! i love that. alone with 32 translators. you’d think he’d have noticed them.

    Comment by SarahJane — January 29, 2007 @ 6:53 pm

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Good to see you. And here I was thinking I was alone.

    Bud

    Comment by Bud Bloom — January 31, 2007 @ 6:54 pm

  3. i got as far as Dongbo, which i liked. hard to choose a favorite, but there were a couple there I definitely didn’t like.
    enjoyed

    Comment by SarahJane — February 2, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

  4. Hi Sarah,

    You should try your hand at a translation? I’d love to read one by you.

    Bud

    Comment by Bud Bloom — February 4, 2007 @ 12:48 pm

  5. Read yet another translation you might want to add. It’s in David Landrum’s new e-book just published by the New Formalist. See “We Three” at:

    http://www.formalpoetry.co/ebooks/landrum.html

    All best–

    Comment by Patricia — April 19, 2007 @ 6:42 am

  6. Oops!

    Make that URL:

    http://www.formalpoetry.com/ebooks/landrum/html

    Comment by Patricia — April 19, 2007 @ 6:45 am

  7. Hey–good to see you, Patricia.

    Thank you.

    That’s a good one too, done nicely as a sonnet.

    http://www.formalpoetry.com/ebooks/landrum.html

    C.M.

    Comment by Clattery MacHinery — April 19, 2007 @ 11:00 am

  8. My translation is misquoted. Delete the word “my” from Line 5. It should read: Now the moon had never learned about drinking.

    Thank you.

    Comment by Elling O. Eide — November 29, 2007 @ 5:59 pm

  9. I am glad you stopped by. Thank you for the correction.

    C.

    Comment by Clattery MacHinery — November 30, 2007 @ 12:07 am

  10. I believe there’s also a translation by Innes Herdan.

    My favourite so far is ‘The Little Fete’. That one is translated by someone who is not only a scholar, but obviously a poet, too. I think it’s a decent response to the original text, despite the omissions.

    Comment by Quentin S Crisp — January 18, 2008 @ 11:52 pm

  11. Hi Quentin,

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your note. I enjoyed rereading ‘The Little Fete’ and went searching the web for Innes Herdan’s translation–to no avail. Although you are correct, there is one.

    C.

    Comment by Clattery MacHinery — January 19, 2008 @ 1:21 am

  12. If you need Innes Herdan’s take, it’s this:

    Drinking Alone With The Moon
    From a pot of wine among the flowers
    I drank alone. There was no one with me –
    Till, raising my cup, I asked the bright moon
    To bring me my shadow and make us three.
    Alas, the moon was unable to drink
    And my shadow tagged me vacantly;
    But still for a while I had these friends
    To cheer me through the end of spring….
    I sang. The moon encouraged me.
    I danced. My shadow tumbled after.
    As long as I knew, we were boon companions.
    And then I was drunk, and we lost one another.
    …Shall goodwill ever be secure?
    I watch the long road of the River of Stars.

    Comment by Stephen Fryer — May 13, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

  13. Hi Stephen,

    Thanks very much. It’s a good and important one, and it’s in.

    37 now.

    C.

    Comment by Clattery MacHinery — May 14, 2008 @ 2:00 am

  14. Haha! That’s wonderful, and very interesting. We actually have this poem framed up in the dining room (in Chinese, though.)

    Comment by Li An — October 25, 2008 @ 9:08 am

  15. Imagine stumbling on this after all this time, thanks for putting this together!…and please permit me to add my little effort to the pile (I wrote a large chamber piece to the poem, sung sumultaneously in Chinese and English, in the 90’s)…here ’tis:

    Among the flowering vines:
    A flask of wine
    Alone, I sip..no one to share my reverie
    So I raise my cup, beckon the moon come down to dine
    And see my shadow flicker forth– From one is born a band of three!
    Since the moon canot enjoy my drink
    And my shadow only follows my weaving hand
    These fleeting friends will do, I think
    At least while spring still warms the land!
    I sing: the moon reels above
    I dance: my shadow flickers wildly about
    As long as I can stay awake
    This party of three will joyfully shout..
    Soon drunken sleep will quell our fun
    And my trio will separate back into one
    Cold hearted friends, we’ll pass each other by
    And wave by the light of the river in the sky..

    Comment by Danel Palkowski — December 23, 2008 @ 4:29 am

  16. Hi Daniel,

    Wonderful!

    I have it included, and placed it into the early 1990s. No title. If you have titles it, please let me know.

    Thanks.

    C.

    Comment by Clattery MacHinery — December 23, 2008 @ 2:30 pm

  17. Fun idea, Clattery. I enjoyed reading through. Funny how what has emphasis for one poetry reader (or translator) will not have the same for another. Conversely, what is not key for another will have emphasis for the first. The heart is truly a lonely hunter, as they say.

    Tere

    Comment by Terreson — December 25, 2008 @ 5:46 pm

  18. Among the flowers with a jug of wine
    I drink alone no friends for company
    I lift my cup inviting the bright moon
    Its face my shadow and myself make three

    Alas the moon does not know how to drink
    And all my shadow does is follow me
    I beg you moon and shadow stay a while
    And play with me before the spring can flee

    I sing the moon’s glow flickers too and fro
    I dance my shadow falls in frantic play
    When sober we shared happiness together
    Now drunk farewells are all we’ve left to say

    Pledge never ending level headed friendship
    We’ll meet again on the far Milky Way.

    Comment by Chris Weimer — January 26, 2009 @ 6:12 am

  19. Yet another one ……

    Drinking Alone with the Moon

    From a wine pot amidst the flowers,
    I drink alone without partners.
    To invite the moon I raise my cup.
    We’re three, as my shadow shows up.
    Alas, the moon doesn’t drink.
    My shadow follows but doesn’t think.
    Still for now I have these friends,
    To cheer me up until the spring ends.
    I sing; the moon wanders.
    I dance; the shadow scatters.
    Awake, together we have fun.
    Drunk, separately we’re gone.
    Let’s be boon companions forever,
    Pledging, in heaven, we’ll be together.

    Comment by Ying — February 18, 2009 @ 1:38 am

  20. Never knew that so many translations for this poem exist. I too have made a translation in Malayalam ( from English ) , but now I want to better it by the help of your posts.

    regards.

    Comment by V Revikumar — May 11, 2009 @ 2:04 am

  21. i read the quote about Li Bai in Lu Xiaofeng story, as i remembered, “I rise my cup to invite the moon and turn to my shadow which makes three of us”.
    When i’m alone, this quote pops up in my mind, make me want to read the whole poem, and here i am, finding not just 1, but 42 translation =3
    Thank you.

    Comment by yuna — July 14, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

  22. [...] conhecer: Li Bai drinking alone (with the moon, his shadow, & 42 translators) http://clatterymachinery.wordpress.com/2007/01/26/li-bai-drinking-alone-with-the-moon-his-shadow-32-… Deixe um comentário Sem comentários ainda até o momento Deixe um comentário Feed RSS dos [...]

    Pingback by E nós sentinelas para pasto dos tigres « Olhos Noturnos — September 27, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

  23. [...] conhecer: Li Bai drinking alone (with the moon, his shadow, & 42 translators) http://clatterymachinery.wordpress.com/2007/01/26/li-bai-drinking-alone-with-the-moon-his-shadow-32-… Deixe um comentário Sem comentários ainda até o momento Deixe um comentário Feed RSS dos [...]

    Pingback by Tristeza como chuva « Olhos Noturnos — September 28, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

  24. Here’s a simple,poignant version:

    I take a bottle of wine,
    And drink beside the vine.
    We are always three,
    my shadow, the moon, and me.
    The moon hears my song,
    my shadow grows long.
    When the party is done,
    the guests leave one by one.
    A sadness unknown to me,
    For on the way home,
    we three still are three.
    We are never alone,
    Moon, shadow, and me.

    Comment by Karl Stice — December 13, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

  25. Thanks for sharing this! It was oddly heartwarming to read so many translations/interpretations.

    Comment by nijibug — July 6, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

  26. [...] Hier das Original und 42 englische Fassungen, darunter eine gesungene, George Thorogood’s I Drink Alone [...]

    Pingback by Lyrikzeitung & Poetry News — September 9, 2010 @ 11:07 am

  27. [...] of the Yangtze River. His poem to the moon and many of it’s translations can be found on this blog. September 22, 2010 | admin | No Comments [...]

    Pingback by Happy Mid Autumn Festival 中秋节快乐! » KaffeStugan — September 22, 2010 @ 12:12 am

  28. Nice, I really like your poetry collection. These are a rarity nowadays. I will return to your blog often.

    Comment by Hotels in Saratoga — October 27, 2010 @ 2:14 am

  29. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, Meredith Walsh. Meredith Walsh said: Lai Bai drinking alone (with the moon, his shadow and 42 translators) http://tinyurl.com/6z4r5nl [...]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Li Bai drinking alone (with the moon, his shadow, & 42 translators) « Clattery MacHinery on Poetry -- Topsy.com — February 8, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  30. Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon

    Amidst flowers with a pot of wine,
    I drink alone, companionless.
    Raising a cup, I invite the bright moon
    To add my shadow, and we become three.
    But the moon does not drink
    And the shadow simply follows me.
    Moon and shadow are but fleeting partners,
    Yet one must find joy in life.
    As I sing, the moon lingers;
    I dance, and the shadow stumbles after.
    While sober, we shared our happiness;
    Now drunk, we go our separate ways.
    Forever bound, roaming without a care,
    We will meet again beyond the Milky Way.

    Comment by Steven D. Owyoung — April 25, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

  31. Clattery McHinery:

    I wonder if you might post my translation of the Li Bo poem in your list.

    I recently published my version on the website Cha Dao in an essay on the poet.

    I find your site immensely useful as a library and history of English translation of Chinese poetry.

    In admiration and with thanks,

    Steven D. Owyoung

    Comment by Steven D. Owyoung — April 25, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

  32. [...] To better illustrate what I’m talking about, here is my translation of a poem by Li Bai, who many consider to be the greatest of all Tang poets. I am including a literal translation for you to compare to my version. By reading these side by side, I hope you will better appreciate my point about the difficulties (and pleasures) of Tang translation. This is too slippery to be classified as an exact science. And since this particular poem happens to be one of the most frequently translated of all Tang poems, after reading my translation you can follow the link below to compare it to a number of other versions, none of them even close to literal.Many other translations are available online. [...]

    Pingback by Li Bai’s ‘Drinking Alone in the Moonlight’ | 愛國者的呼聲 Voice of True Chinese Patriots — April 26, 2011 @ 3:55 am

  33. Clattery:

    Glad you liked my take on the poem. Many thanks for adding it to the list.

    All best wishes,

    Steve.

    Comment by Steven D. Owyoung — April 30, 2011 @ 9:57 am

  34. Excellent! Thank you. Please see my blog post and comment re: translator Joseph Lee of this poem in the book Oriental Love Poems.

    http://zengarden1-11.blogspot.com/2011/06/beneath-moon.html

    Comment by Holly — June 17, 2011 @ 2:03 am

  35. Beautiful poems. Loved this post and this cooperative idea of giving translations… Very creative…

    Comment by Marion Line — June 30, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

  36. Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon

    Amidst flowers with a pot of wine,
    I drink alone, companionless.
    Raising a cup, I invite the bright moon
    To add my shadow, and we become three.
    But the moon does not drink
    And the shadow simply follows me.
    Moon and shadow are but fleeting partners,
    Yet one must find joy in life.
    As I sing, the moon lingers;
    I dance, and the shadow stumbles after.
    While sober, we shared our happiness;
    Now drunk, we go our separate ways.
    Forever bound, roaming without a care,
    We will meet again beyond the Milky Way.

    Very good this poem, I loved it! bay!

    Comment by carlos style — October 25, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

  37. Very soon this site will be famous among all blogging and site-building users, due to it’s good articles

    Comment by Debra Mcgoey — December 4, 2011 @ 10:30 pm

  38. Very cool! I love this poem, and the translations are very good!

    Comment by vrilleup — December 31, 2011 @ 10:56 pm

  39. [...] http://clatterymachinery.wordpress.com/2007/01/26/li-bai-drinking-alone-with-the-moon-his-shadow-32-… Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in la vie. Bookmark the permalink. ← matlab automatic log [...]

    Pingback by 月下独酌的43种英文翻译 | VrilleUp's Space — December 31, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

  40. This is very interesting–there are many versions here that I haven’t seen before. However, you have left out the first two lines of my translation, which are:

    One jar of wine among the flowers,
    no dear friend to drink with:

    Please add them!

    Thanks,

    David Lunde

    Comment by David Lunde — January 4, 2012 @ 11:12 pm

  41. [...] oneself is generally frowned upon. As far as I know Li Bai is the only Chinese person who has ever gotten away with drinking alone (and one could argue that he had the moon and his shadow for [...]

    Pingback by Q&A: Sipping baijiu? | 300 Shots at Greatness — June 20, 2012 @ 1:37 am

  42. There is a version in catalan: http://lyrics.wikia.com/Maria_Del_Mar_Bonet:Petita_Festa
    Maria del Mar Bonet (born on Mallorca, Spain) put this Poem to a Song and sang it in 1979
    on her album “Quico”.

    Comment by Hubert — August 7, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

  43. [...] Art, asked me to pose for a photograph with her latest installation. A dreamy realisation of a poem by the Tang era’s Li Bai, the installation is entitled A Drink With The Moon Is A Company Of [...]

    Pingback by The Moon, My Shadow And Me | Oliver Blank — November 22, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

  44. Let’s try once more…

    The same poem, with alliterations in the (more or less) Anglo-Saxon “head rhymes” tradition. This is taken out of a new (small) anthology of Tang poetry, where you will find a dozen of those, both in French and in English translations. OK, the main text is in French, but if you can read Chinese, you can read French. And if you can’t, just enjoy the English versions.

    To drink alone under the moonlight

    A jug filled with wine among the flowers
    For a solitary feast on my own;
    My cup I raise, calling the crescent Moon:
    My shivering shadow the third guest shall be.
    But the Moon’s lost her mind
    And behind me my Shadow bounces blindly.
    For a fleeting moment I follow them both,
    Revelling in this Spring’s reverie:
    I sing and the Moon swings to and fro,
    I dance with my demented shadow.
    Awake together, we whirl in wonder
    ‘Til we get drunk, then sadly we must disband.
    O Moon and Shadow!
    For your friendship eternal and care-free
    I yearn, and to meet you up yonder with the stars.

    Enjoy!

    Comment by Marquejaune — March 17, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

  45. […] absolutely love the sentiments and ideas that recur in almost all of them. You can read the others right here. Should you want some more translation madness and a good laugh, have a look at these hilarious […]

    Pingback by On translation and Chinese poet Li Bai (or Li Bo) | Priests, Kings, & Nomads — May 24, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

  46. […] Say, when shall we next meet together? Surely not in cloudy weather, For you my boon companions dear Come only when the sky is clear. http://clatterymachinery.wordpress.com/2007/01/26/li-bai-drinking-alone-with-the-moon-his-shadow-32-… […]

    Pingback by Alcoholic drinking’s three stages: impulsive, compulsive, repulsive. | THE OLD PROVERBIAL RECOVERY — June 3, 2014 @ 9:55 am

  47. A great translation to add to this very enjoyable page is that by David Young, from his collection Five Tang Poets (Oberline College Press, 1990) and also reproduced here: http://thepoemoftheweek.blogspot.com/2008/03/poem-of-week-3242008-from-waste-land.html

    Comment by Daniel Hudon — July 13, 2014 @ 5:16 am


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