Poetry

Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon

Translated by David Hinton

Li Po’s “Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon” celebrates spring, drinking wine, and achieving spiritual awareness. Li Po himself was notorious for his consumption of wine, heralding it as creative inspiration for all of his artistic endeavors. In the poem, Li Po takes readers through a series of claims that favor wine, giving it divine qualities and the blessing of the heavens and earth. Translated by David Hinton into English, this version features playful couplets and engaging metaphors to portray wine as a miraculous drink that gives the imbiber company and enjoyment. However, careful readers may notice where the speaker’s joy could be portrayed as an indication of loneliness or excessive drinking. We are left wondering whether drinking wine serves as a metaphor for living life to its fullest, beyond the confines of rigid doctrine, or whether the poet himself was simultaneously praising and admonishing his own habit. Ultimately, the poem takes us on a journey from the physical to the spiritual—incorporating themes of joy, loneliness, and spiritual understanding—leaving us to consider our own relationships with each.

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