Li Bai, also known as Li Bo, courtesy name Taibai, was a Chinese poet acclaimed from his own day to the present as a genius and a romantic figure who took traditional poetic forms to new heights.
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Famous Li Po Poems
Misted the flowers weep as light dies
Moon of white silk sleeplessly cries.
Stilled – Phoenix wings.
Touched – Mandarin strings.
This song tells secrets that no one knows
To far Yenjan on Spring breeze it goes.
To you it flies
Through the night skies.
Sidelong – Eyes. How
White tears fill now!
Heart’s pain? Come see –
In this mirror with me.
Lu Mountain, Kiangsi
I climbed west on Incense Cloud Peak.
South I saw the spray-filled falls
Dropping for ten thousand feet
Sounding in a hundred gorges,
Suddenly as if lightning shone,
Strange as if light-wet rainbows lifted.
I thought the Milky Way had shattered,
Scattering stars through the clouds, downwards.
Looking up an even greater force.
Nature’s powers are so intense.
The Cosmic Wind blows there without stop.
The river’s moon echoes back the light
Into vortices where waters rush.
On both sides the clear walls were washed,
By streams of pearl broken into mist,
By clouds of foam whitening over rock.
Let me reach those Sublime Hills
Where peace comes to the quiet heart.
No more need to find the magic cup.
I’ll wash the dust, there, from my face,
And live in those regions that I love,
Separated from the Human World.
Did Chuang Chou dream he was the butterfly?
Or the butterfly dream he was Chuang Chou?
In the single body’s transformations
See the vortex of the Myriad Creatures.
No mystery then that the Magic Seas
Shrank again to crystal streams,
Or down by Ch’ang-an’s Green Gate
The gardener was Marquis of Tung-Ling.
If this is the fate of fame and power,
What is it for- this endless striving?
To My Wife On Lu-Shan Mountain
Visiting the nun Rise-In-Air,
You must be near her place in those blue hills.
The river’s force helps pound the mica,
The wind washes rose bay tree flowers.
If you find you can’t leave that refuge,
Invite me there to see the sunset’s fire.
Lament For Mr Tai
Wine-maker there by Yellow Fountains,
‘Eternal Spring’ that’s still your vintage.
Without Li Po on Night’s Terrace
Who can there be to bring you custom?
Lines For A Taoist Adept
My friend lives high on East Mountain.
His nature is to love the hills and gorges.
In green spring he sleeps in empty woodland,
Still there when the noon sun brightens.
Pine-tree winds to dust his hair.
Rock-filled streams to cleanse his senses.
Free of all sound and stress,
Resting on a wedge of cloud and mist.
When we met the first time at Ch’ang-an
He called me the ‘Lost Immortal’.
Then he loved the Way of Forgetting.
Now under the pine-trees he is dust.
His golden keepsake bought us wine.
Remembering, the tears run down my cheeks
Drinking, I sit,
Lost to Night,
Keep falling petals
From the ground:
Get up to follow
The stream’s white moon,
No sign of birds,
The humans gone.
Remembering The Springs At Ch’ih-Chou
Peach-tree flowers over rising waters.
White drowned stones, then free again.
Wistaria-blossom on quivering branches.
Clear blue sky. The waxing moon.
How many tight-coiled scrolls of bracken,
On green tracks where I once walked?
When I’m back from exile in Yeh-lang,
There I’ll transmute my bones to gold.
Resentment Near The Jade Stairs
Dew whitens the jade stairs.
This late, it soaks her gauze stockings.
She lowers her crystal blind to watch
the breaking, glass-clear moon of autumn.
True-Taoist, good friend Mêng,
Your madness known to one and all,
Young you laughed at rank and power.
Now you sleep in pine-tree clouds.
On moonlit nights floored by the Dragon.
In magic blossom deaf to the World.
You rise above – a hill so high.
I drink the fragrance from afar.
Reaching The Hermitage
At evening I make it down the mountain.
Keeping company with the moon.
Looking back I see the paths I’ve taken
Blue now, blue beneath the skyline.
You greet me, show the hidden track,
Where children pull back hawthorn curtains,
Reveal green bamboo, the secret path,
Vines that touch the traveller’s clothes.
I love finding space to rest,
Clear wine to enjoy with you.
Wind in the pines till voices stop,
Songs till the Ocean of Heaven pales.
I get drunk and you are happy,
Both of us pleased to forget the world.
On Gazing Into A Mirror
Follow Tao, and nothing is old or new.
Lose it, and the ruins of age return.
Someone smiling back in the mirror,
hair white as the frost-stained glass,
you admit lament is empty, ask how
reflections get so worn and withered.
How speak of peach and plum: timeless
South Mountain blazes in the end?
The Solitude Of Night
It was at a wine party—
I lay in a drowse, knowing it not.
The blown flowers fell and filled my lap.
When I arose, still drunken,
The birds had all gone to their nests,
And there remained but few of my comrades.
I went along the river—alone in the moonlight.
TRANSLATED BY SHIGEYOSHI OBATA
The Ching-Ting Mountain
Flocks of birds have flown high and away;
A solitary drift of cloud, too, has gone, wandering on.
And I sit alone with the Ching-ting Peak, towering beyond.
We never grow tired of each other, the mountain and I.