Thursday, January 25, 2007

Li Bai drinking alone (with the moon, his shadow, & 32 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 30 English translations (from 32 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.


_____



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 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 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 my 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 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.


_____




(extra credit)

George Thorogood's I Drink Alone


Duration 4:39



_____

8 Comments:

At 1:53 PM, Blogger SarahJane said...

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

 
At 1:54 PM, Blogger Bud Bloom said...

Hi Sarah,

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

Bud

 
At 9:20 AM, Blogger SarahJane said...

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

 
At 7:48 AM, Blogger Bud Bloom said...

Hi Sarah,

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

Bud

 
At 10:09 PM, Blogger creamyhorror said...

Some absolutely lovely renditions there, which I couldn't help but love despite the sometimes over-liberal translation. W.J.B.Fletcher, Rewi Alley, Winifred Galbraith, Vikram Seth, Dongbo, and that unnamed 2007 translator did brilliant jobs in my opinion. Thanks for this page.

 
At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Bill Thomas said...

Wonderful site!
You might be interested in my own version of the poem, below:

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.

Bill Thomas, 2009

 
At 3:37 PM, Blogger Bud Bloom said...

Hi Bill,

Beauty!

I just added yours to the updated post over at Clattery MacHinery:

Li Bai drinking alone (with the moon, his shadow, & 42 translators)

Thanks.

Bud

 
At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Patrick S-A said...

I adapted this poem into a song...it's not amazing but it's pretty entertaining (the tune is sort of Frank Sinatra-esque). I'm not a translator or anything...

"The Moon and My Shadow and Me"

I sit alone, under the moon
Amongst the flowers, in full bloom

No one to drink
With, or so I think,
But, hey, if…

Well there’s the moon and me
And my shadow, that makes us three
Drinking alone, beneath the shining sea
Of stars…Oh, the moon and my shadow and me…

But the moon doesn’t seem to be drinking…
My shadow’s content with its slinking…

But that’s OK,
Tomorrow’s another perfect Spring day…hey…

Well there’s the moon and me
And my shadow, that makes us three
Drinking alone, beneath the shining sea
Of stars…Oh, the moon and my shadow and me…

I sing!
And the moon sings with me

I dance!
My shadow’s dancing too

I go,
And leave them both behind

Awake and alone and free
The moon and my shadow and me

We’ll travel alone,
The moon’s silver shone,
The moon and my shadow and me

Well there’s the moon and me
And my shadow, that makes us three
Drinking alone, beneath the shining sea
Of stars…Oh, the moon and my shadow and me…

 

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