Friday Poem

To His Three Friends

by Li Bai (701-762)

When the hunter sets traps only for rabbits,
Tigers and dragons are left uncaught.
Even so, men of blue-cloud ambition remain unsought,
Singing aloud at the door of their rocky den.

My friend, Han, you are rare and profound;
Pei, you possess a true clean breast;
And Kung, you, too, are an excellent man;
And all you three are lovers of cloud and mist.
Your stout and straight souls
Are loftier than the loftiest pine.
A flat boulder for a bed, you sleep together under one cover;
You hack the ice and sip water from the winter stream;
You own two pairs of shoes to wear among you three.

Once wandering as you please
Like the vagrant clouds,
You came out of the mountains to greet the governor.
Indifferently you wore cap and mantle a while,
Whistling long.

Last night you dreamed of returning to your old haunt,
And enjoying, you say, the moon of the Bamboo Valley.
This morning outside the east gate of Luh
We spread the tent and drink the farewell cup.

Be careful as you go!
The cliffs are snowy, and your horses may slip;
And the road of tangled vines may perplex you.
Pray remember,
My thoughts of longing are like the smoke grass,
That grows always in profusion, winter or spring!

translated by Shigeyoshi Obata

About Li Bai at Read More below

Li Bai

A Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty, Li Bai (also known as Li Po, Li Pai, Li T’ai-po, and Li T’ai-pai) was probably born in central Asia and grew up in Sichuan Province. He left home in 725 to wander through the Yangtze River Valley and write poetry. In 742 he was appointed to the Hanlin Academy by Emperor Xuanzong, though he was eventually expelled from court. He then served the Prince of Yun, who led a revolt after the An Lushan Rebellion of 755. Li Bai was arrested for treason; after he was pardoned, he again wandered the Yangtze Valley. He was married four times and was friends with the poet Du Fu.

Li Bai wrote occasional verse and poems about his own life. His poetry is known for its clear imagery and conversational tone. His work influenced a number of 20th-century poets, including Ezra Pound and James Wright.  —from The Poetry Foundation