Li Bai English Translations
Click on the title of each poem for the text in Chinese characters, pinyin and literal translation.
Facing my wine, I did not see the dusk,
Falling blossoms have filled the folds of my clothes.
Drunk, I rise and approach the moon in the stream,
Birds are far off, people too are few.
Ancient Air (39)
I climb up high and look on the four seas,
Heaven and earth spreading out so far.
Frost blankets all the stuff of autumn,
The wind blows with the great desert's cold.
The eastward-flowing water is immense,
All the ten thousand things billow.
The white sun's passing brightness fades,
Floating clouds seem to have no end.
Swallows and sparrows nest in the wutong tree,
Yuan and luan birds perch among jujube thorns.
Now it's time to head on back again,
I flick my sword and sing Taking the Hard Road.
The autumn air is clear,
The autumn moon is bright.
Fallen leaves gather and scatter,
The jackdaw perches and starts anew.
We think of each other- when will we meet?
This hour, this night, my feelings are hard.
When first my hair began to cover my forehead,
I picked and played with flowers before the gate.
You came riding on a bamboo horse,
And circled the walkway, playing with green plums.
We lived together, here in Changgan county,
Two children, without the least suspicion.
When I was fourteen, I became your wife,
So shy that still my face remained unopened.
I bowed my head towards the shadowed wall,
And called one thousand times, I turned not once.
At 15 I began to lift my brows,
And wished to be with you as dust with ashes.
You always kept your massive pillar faith,
I had no need to climb the lookout hill.
When I was sixteen, you went far away,
To Yanyudui, within the Qutang gorge.
You should not risk the dangerous floods of May,
Now from the sky, the monkeys cry in mourning.
Before the gate, my pacing's left a mark,
Little by little, the green moss has grown.
The moss is now too deep to sweep away,
And leaves fall in the autumn's early winds.
This August, all the butterflies are yellow,
A pair fly over the western garden's grass.
I feel that they are damaging my heart,
Through worrying, my rosy face grows old.
When you come down the river from Sanba,
Beforehand, send a letter to your home.
We'll go to meet each other, however far,
I'll come up to Changfengsha.
Crows Calling at Night
Yellow clouds beside the walls; crows near the tower.
Flying back, they caw, caw; calling in the boughs.
In the loom she weaves brocade, the Qin river girl.
Made of emerald yarn like mist, the window hides her words.
She stops the shuttle, sorrowful, and thinks of the distant man.
She stays alone in the lonely room, her tears just like the rain.
For Wang Lun
Li Bai is already on the boat, preparing to depart,
I suddenly hear the sound of stamping and singing on the shore.
The water of Taohua pond reaches a thousand feet in depth,
But still it's not as deep as Wang Lun's feelings seeing me off.
Hearing a Flute on a Spring Night in Luoyang
From whose home secretly flies the sound of a jade flute?
It's lost amid the spring wind which fills Luoyang city.
In the middle of this nocturne I remember the snapped willow,
What person would not start to think of home!
Laolao Ting Pavilion
What place under heaven most hurts the heart?
Laolao Ting, for seeing visitors off.
The spring wind knows how bitter it is to part,
The willow twig will never again be green.
To be in Chang'an.
The grasshoppers weave their autumn song by the golden railing of the well;
Frost coalesces on my bamboo mat, changing its colour with cold.
My lonely lamp is not bright, I’d like to end these thoughts;
I roll back the hanging, gaze at the moon, and long sigh in vain.
The beautiful person's like a flower beyond the edge of the clouds.
Above is the black night of heaven's height;
Below is the green water billowing on.
The sky is long, the road is far, bitter flies my spirit;
The spirit I dream can't get through, the mountain pass is hard.
Breaks my heart.
Long Yearning (Sent Far)
When the beautiful woman was here, the hall was filled with flowers,
Now the beautiful woman's gone, the bed is lying empty.
On the bed, the embroidered quilt is rolled up: no-one sleeps,
Though three years have now gone by, I think I smell that scent.
The scent is finished but not destroyed,
The woman's gone and does not come.
Yearning yellows the falling leaf,
White dew beads the green moss.
Marble Steps Complaint
White dew grows on the marble steps,
And in the long night, soaks into my stockings.
But now I let the crystal curtain down,
And gaze through it at the autumn moon.
Midnight Song of Wu
In Chang'an city is the disk of the moon,
The sound of pounding clothes in ten thousand households.
The autumn wind is blowing without cease,
All the time I think of Yuguan pass.
When will we pacify the pillaging Hu,
So my husband can end his long journey?
Question and Answer on the Mountain
You ask for what reason I stay on the green mountain,
I smile, but do not answer, my heart is at leisure.
Peach blossom is carried far off by flowing water,
Apart, I have heaven and earth in the human world.
Seeing off a Friend
Green hills above the northern wall,
White water winding east of the city.
On this spot our single act of parting,
The lonely tumbleweed journeys ten thousand li.
Drifting clouds echo the traveller's thoughts,
The setting sun reflects my old friend's feelings.
You wave your hand and set off from this place,
Your horse whinnies as it leaves.
Seeing off Meng Haoran for Guangling at Yellow Crane Tower
My old friend's said goodbye to the west, here at Yellow Crane Tower,
In the third month's cloud of willow blossoms, he's going down to Yangzhou.
The lonely sail is a distant shadow, on the edge of a blue emptiness,
All I see is the Yangtze River flow to the far horizon.
Sent to Du Fu below Shaqiu City
What is it that I've come to now?
High before me: Shaqiu city.
Beside the city, ancient trees;
The sunset joins the autumn sounds.
The Lu wine cannot make me drunk,
Despite Qi's songs, my feelings return.
My thoughts of you are like the Wen's waters,
Mightily sent on their southern journey.
Sitting Alone on Jingting Shan Hill
A flock of birds is flying high in the distance,
A lonely cloud drifts idly on its own.
We gaze at each other, neither growing tired,
There is only Jingting Shan.
Staying the Night at a Mountain Temple
The high tower is a hundred feet tall,
From here one's hand could pluck the stars.
I do not dare to speak in a loud voice,
I fear to disturb the people in heaven.
Thoughts on a Still Night
Before my bed, the moon is shining bright,
I think that it is frost upon the ground.
I raise my head and look at the bright moon,
I lower my head and think of home.
Viewing Heaven's Gate Mountains
The River Chu cuts through the middle of heaven's gate,
The green water flowing east reaches here then swirls.
On either bank the blue hills face towards each other,
The flatness of a lonely sail comes from by of the sun.
Visiting the Taoist Priest Dai Tianshan But Not Finding Him
A dog's bark amid the water's sound,
Peach blossom that's made thicker by the rain.
Deep in the trees, I sometimes see a deer,
And at the stream I hear no noonday bell.
Wild bamboo divides the green mist,
A flying spring hangs from the jasper peak.
No-one knows the place to which he's gone,
Sadly, I lean on two or three pines.