The Bright Moon

By John Hertz: Ever since Earth sent a man to the Moon, landing on July 20, 1969, that day for many of us has been the Glorious 20th — yesterday; we who cherish such thoughts looked, literally or figuratively, or both, at the Moon.

In China, since I’m about to quote a Chinese poem, but also e.g. in Japan, often people looking at the Moon think of those apart from them, who may also be looking at it, and on whom it reflects too.

The poet is Wang Wei (701-761), famous for poetry, music, and landscape painting.  The first line quotes a poem by Ch‘u Yuan, and the last alludes to one by Li Pai (also called Li Po) — this sort of thing is applauded as an art.

The translator is Red Pine (literary name of Bill Porter, who has taken the name of an immortal in Taoist mythology, sometimes considered Lord of Rain — “In emptiness and silence I found serenity … I heard how once Red Pine had washed the world’s dust off”, tr. D. Hawkes); his rendition of the T‘ang and Sung Dynasty anthology Ch‘ien Chia Shih (literally Poems of a Thousand Masters but “a thousand” isn’t meant literally) he calls Poems of the Masters (2003; below is No. 13, pp. 32-33).

Poems like this, only a few words, are meant for savoring.

Sitting alone amid dense bamboo
strumming my lute and whistling
deep in the forest no one else knows
until the bright moon looks down

1 thought on “The Bright Moon

  1. I need to read more Li Po. Or, better yet, find a university that is offering a course in poetry.

    Thank you!

Comments are closed.