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In the Quiet Night -- Li Po

Guest poem submitted by Purnima Sreenivas:
(Poem #794) In the Quiet Night
 The floor before my bed is bright:
 Moonlight - like hoarfrost - in my room.
 I lift my head and watch the moon.
 I drop my head and think of home.
-- Li Po
Translated by Vikram Seth.

I came across this poem years ago in Seth's volume "Three Chinese Poets"
which I began reading more from a love of Seth than any great interest in
Chinese poetry. What I love about this poem is its sparseness, something
that Li Po shares with other Chinese poets, and which I think has to do with
a culture where emotional restraint is encouraged. Yet this quatrain is an
example of just how much loneliness can hide behind a facade of serenity.
The poem resembles the Chinese script itself - a minutely detailed painting
brought to life with a few deft strokes.


[Minstrels Links]

Poems by Li Po:
Poem #70, "The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter"
Poem #504, "About Tu Fu"
Poem #683, "To Tu Fu from Shantung"
Poem #749, "Parting"
(Note that the first of these is credited to Ezra Pound on the Minstrels
website, since it's as much Pound's work as Po's).

Poems by Vikram Seth:
Poem #650, "All You Who Sleep Tonight"
Poem #754, "Protocols"
Poem #460, "Round and Round"

Seth's "Three Chinese Poets" (which, sadly, I do not have the good fortune
to possess) includes translations of Wang Wei, Tu Fu (whose name Seth
transliterates as Du Fu) and Li Po (ditto, Li Bai).

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