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Vocabulary in Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon

Vocabulary Examples in Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon:

Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon

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"Changemaker..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

Based on context, the word “Changemaker” likely refers to an all-powerful force, such as Fate or God. Similar to other faiths, this line describes the notion that one’s destiny and future is predetermined at birth. While such a claim takes away much agency from the individual, Li Po’s speaker does convey important information: there are many factors that are beyond our control in determining the type of life we will have.

"brocade..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

A “brocade” is a kind of textile fabric woven with a pattern of raised figures. Originally, these figures were done in gold or silver, but later on, flower patterns took form, creating an intricate, interwoven display of color. Li Po’s speaker uses this word to emphasize the magnificent pattern of color that the new blossoms cast on Ch’ang-an in the spring.

"murky wine..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

As opposed to the clear wine, “murky wine” likely refers to red wine. While white wines are clear, red wines are “murky” in the sense that you cannot see through them. Red wines also tend to have stronger fragrances and tastes, creating a more complex drinking experience. For these reasons, we can see why the speaker associates red wine with wisdom. Wisdom is, among other things, the ability to reason with information, to seek answers to complicated issues.

"clear wine..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

Clear wine refers to white wines. They are “clear” in the sense that the liquid is translucent. Since the speaker associates this type of wine with enlightenment, the use of “clear” here has extra weight. Enlightenment is also referred to as a kind of mental clarity, of seeing things more easily and clearly. This is likely why he draws the connection between the two.

"in Star River distances..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

While “Star River distances” could suggest a place beyond life, other translations have simply used the term “the Milky Way”—the irregular, faintly luminous band that circles the night sky. Regardless of the translation, the speaker appears to convey the idea that even though he and his friends wander, they are connected to one another forever in a place that transcends the earth.

"we’ll wander carefree..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

Li Po’s speaker appears to contrast sober and drunk states, and many readings could suggest that the speaker is happy when he’s sober and in the company of his friends and unhappy when he’s not. However, the use of “wander carefree” suggests that the speaker and his friends “scatter away” of their own accord, or without any cause for worry. In this second reading, drunkenness is figured as positively as sobriety.

"Kindred..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

The noun “kindred” literally means that people have a relationship by blood, descent, or marriage. However, it can be used more broadly to emphasize a kind of spiritual relationship or closeness between two souls. Here, the speaker finds that moment of connection with the moon and his shadow, and in so doing, he finds joy.

"I toast..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

Many cultures around the world have similar rituals that involve a “toast” when drinking. Generally, this verb means to to drink in honor of a person or thing. The speaker toasts the moon, which is described here as a character itself.

"blossoms..."   (Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon)

This work is a translation, and so much of the word analysis that can be done in this poem will focus on translator David Hinton’s choices. Here, he uses “blossoms,” a word for the flowers that grow on plants. In English, this word is often associated with spring flowers, and therefore contains a direct link to spring-time connotations of renewal, rebirth, and new beginnings. These are all positive associations, and so we are encouraged to connect wine to these positive connotations.

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