“Something Said, Waking Drunk on a Spring Day.” Li declined to take the civil-service examination and, after a period of secluding himself in the mountains, left Sichuan province in his midtwenties, wandering through the Yangtze River valley, where he met the woman who became his first wife. He later became friends with Du Fu, considered the other great poet of the Tang dynasty. Li was known for his love of drink: one popular legend holds that he drowned, when, drunk one evening in a boat, he tried to grasp the moon’s reflection.
It’s like a boundless dream here in this
world, nothing anywhere to trouble us.
I have, therefore, been drunk all day,
a shambles of sleep on the front porch.
Coming to, I look into the courtyard.
There’s a bird among blossoms calling,
and when I ask what season this is,
an oriole’s voice drifts on spring winds.
Overcome, verging on sorrow and lament,
I pour another drink. Soon, awaiting
this bright moon, I’m chanting a song.
And now it’s over, I’ve forgotten why.
© 1996, David Hinton. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.