I love the imagery in the poetry of Li Bai (AD701-762)
His poem “Dancing alone beneath the moon” justified his drinking alone. This was frowned upon in Tang China. But Li Bai claims not to be alone for he has company, the company of the Moon and his own moonshadow.
I have tried this on a warm night and you can be perfectly happy drinking with these two companions.
Dancing with my Moonshadow
I sway with my back to the moonlight,
My shadow is swaying with me.
My shadow’s my slave, it seems so right,
For how can a shadow be free?
As I dance my slave dances here too,
I’m drunk and my pain’s now at bay.
As I yearn now to seek to renew,
My troubles now all fade away.
Moonshadows abound here on this night,
The Moon here’s a glory to see.
A shadow as slave here seems so right;
For this is how all things ought be!
There’s much that once made my soul sad,
But my Shadow here fills me with glee.
This brief time, I’m feeling oh, so glad;
Moon Shadow I’ll never set free.
Old Cruelty makes shadows of live folk,
Coerce them to do as they’re told.
And bind them like they’re in an old yolk;
The souls of the cruel are all cold.
As I dance with my slave we are free.
All drunken we don’t give a damn.
The road to the stars is above me;
Here I’ll be the man that I am.
© Trevor Morgan 13 April 2018
This is a translation of Li Bai’s poem:
Drinking alone beneath the Moon
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.