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Monday, December 5, 2016

Remembering the Eastern Ranges

Li Bai was my first great love among the Tang poets.  It was an intense albeit brief affair.  I was swept away by the grandeur of his spirit.  I stumbled along with him upstream, transported by the pull of the moonlight, in search of the origin or elixir of God-only-knows what.   Not that I remember either of us finding anything of the sort, but every once in a while I feel drawn back to join him for another look.

Today is one of those days.  I've had a chance to reacquaint myself with some of Li Bai's great poems, as I've been preparing to record a podcast with my friend Steve Zhang about his work.  I decided to translate one of Li Bai's better known poems - long one of my favorites - as a way of reconnecting with my dear old friend, the 诗仙 or Immortal Poet.  For me this poem epitomizes the essence of his great spirit - a spontaneous lyric suffused with the deepest Daoist mystery.

* * * * *

Remembering the Eastern Ranges

Not facing
The eastern ranges
For so long
Where the roses abound
And pass through
Their bloom

The white clouds
Gather and disperse
Of their own volition
The bright moon
Declines over
A house unknown

Today I join with
The Duke's dancers
With a long sigh
Into the crowd
I'm submerged

Longing to reclaim
The eastern ranges
To throw open the gates
And sweep away
Those white clouds

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