Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Li Bai : In The Twilight Of The Moon
Li Bai: In The Twilight Of The Moon
On the floor before my bed
the moonlight shines
bright and cold as frost on earth.
I stare at the bright moon,
and lowering my head
think of home.
[Tr. E. A. Costa]
NB: This is perhaps the most widely known and admired poem in the Chinese language, and for good reason. There is an ancient dispute about the reading, which varies in a later edition and which dispute hinges on whether Li Bai repeated the characters for ming yue. Since there is an obvious play, in which ambiguity is exploited, it is almost certain that he did, and I accept the printed version with the repetition. The poem, especially in its visual aspect as Chinese characters, is simple and elegant to the point of defying translation. I have tried, in this rendering into English, to elucidate a few of the poetic subtilties that travel across language.
Animation made from original digital photographs by E. A. Costa.