Li Bai Poem

For Wang the Twelfth Who Drank Alone on a Cold Night

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It snowed on southern shore last night;
You drank alone with keen delight.
Clouds float for miles and miles like rolled-up mountains high;
The lonely moon drifts in the midst of the sky.
The same lonely moon swims in Silver River clear;
The evening star is bright when Dipper stars appear.
You think of me drinking on a night white with frost;
The golden well with rails of jade in ice is lost.
Men live like floating clouds within a hundred years,
So we should drink our fill like our ancient compeers.
You cannot do as the eunuchs fond of cock fight,
Who blow their breath like rainbow bright.
You cannot do as the general with sword in hand,
Who won his violet robe by slaughter on the land.
Writing verse or prose, by north window you remain;
Ten thousand words not worth a cup of water plain.
Hearing of this, people would turn their heads away,
Just as a horse with ears hurt by east wind would neigh.
The fish’s eye mistaken for a pearl laughs at me,
Saying I cannot shine as the moon or as he.
A horse can’t gallop when it has nothing to eat;
A donkey brays in spring breeze though crippled in feet.
The common people like to sing the vulgar thing.
How could the sacred lute please a segular king?
By popular musicians no fine music’s played;
The Southerners usually look down on rare jade.
No friendship will be made when I’ve spent all my gold;
Though my hair turns white, I receive but glances cold.
My face has lost color when I speak in low voice;
For slanderers like flies make a deafening noise.
The sage’s a murderer, how could that be believed?
The rumor thrice heard, the sage’s mother was deceived
We speak our bosom hand in hand and face to face.
What do I care about vain glory or disgrace?
Confucius only grieved no phoenix would appear.
Why should we hold these lower animals in fear?
Proud all my life long, with them I’m not in accord;
In disfavor, I’m aliented from the lord.
The hermit said to the emperor goodbye.
Why should he serve with his long sword in palace high?
The successful are not those we adore,
Nor the unsuccessful those we deplore.
General Han was ashamed of his compeers;
A loyal man dispises one at whom he jeers.
Have you not seen Li of North Sea?
Brave as he was, where now is he?
Have you not seen Secretary Pei
Buried among thorns? What to say?
While young, I wished to wander on the lake;
Now older, from the dreams of glory I’m awake.

The Emperor of Qin
Song of the Clear Stream


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