June Poetry: Day 4 Li Po

Posted: June 4, 2011 in poetry
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I no longer remember how I first heard of Li Po but I love the simplicity of his work, the playfulness of his drinking poems and the fact that his work reflect the Taoist philosophy I follow.  Below is a little about this poet who lived 1300 years ago.

Li Po (about 701-762 CE)  was a native of Sezchaun, China. While still in his teens, he retired to mountains in the north of the province to live with a religious recluse by the name of Tunyen-tzu. The two of them were said to keep strange birds as pets. Li Po later traveled down the Yangtze to Yun-meng, a town north of the river and Tung-ting Lake, where he married.

From then on his occupation became that of a wandering poet. Throughout his life he produced an abundance of poems on many different subjects—particularly nature, wine, friendship, solitude, and the passage of time. He has since become recognized by many as the greatest of a highly talented array of Tang poets. He stayed for a few years in various places, traveled extensively, and became for a time one of the Six Idlers of the Bamboo Valley, who celebrated wine and song in the mountains of Chu-lai. All this did not provide a satisfactory existence for his first wife, who left him with their two children. He appears to have married three times.

A Mountain Revelry

To wash and rinse our souls of their age-old sorrows,
We drained a hundred jugs of wine.
A splendid night it was . . . .
In the clear moonlight we were loath to go to bed,
But at last drunkenness overtook us;
And we laid ourselves down on the empty mountain,
The earth for pillow, and the great heaven for coverlet

Chuang Tzu And The Butterfly

Chuang Tzu in dream became a butterfly,
And the butterfly became Chuang Tzu at waking.
Which was the real—the butterfly or the man ?
Who can tell the end of the endless changes of things?
The water that flows into the depth of the distant sea
Returns anon to the shallows of a transparent stream.
The man, raising melons outside the green gate of the city,
Was once the Prince of the East Hill.
So must rank and riches vanish.
You know it, still you toil and toil,—what for?

Drinking Alone in the Moonlight

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.

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