Study Guide

Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon

by Li Po

Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon eText - eText

Text of the Poem

1
Among the blossoms, a single jar of wine.
No one else here, I ladle it out myself.

Raising my cup, I toast the bright moon,
and facing my shadow makes friends three,

though moon has never understood wine, 5
and shadow only trails along behind me.

Kindered a moment with moon and shadow,
I’ve found a joy that must infuse spring:

I sing, and moon rocks back and forth;
I dance, and shadow tumbles into pieces. 10

Sober, we’re together and happy. Drunk,
we scatter away into our own directions:

intimates forever, we’ll wander carefree
and meet again in Star River distances.

2
Surely, if heaven didn’t love wine, 15
there would be no Wine Star in heaven,

and if earth didn’t love wine, surely
there would be no Wine Spring on earth.

Heaven and earth have always loved wine,
so how could loving wine shame heaven? 20

I hear clear wine called enlightenment,
and they say murky wine is like wisdom:

once you drink enlightenment and wisdom,
why go searching for gods and immortals?

Three cups and I’ve plumbed the great Way, 25
a jarful and I’ve merged with occurrence

appearing of itself. Wine’s view is lived:
you can’t preach doctrine to the sober.

3
It’s April in Ch’ang-an, these thousand
blossoms making a brocade of daylight. 30

Who can bear spring’s lonely sorrows, who
face it without wine? It’s the only way.

Success or failure, life long or short:
our fate’s given by Changemaker at birth.

But a single cup evens out life and death, 35
our ten thousand concerns unfathomed,

and once I’m drunk, all heaven and earth
vanish, leaving me suddenly alone in bed,

forgetting that person I am even exists.
Of all our joys, this must be the deepest. 40