Prelude to Water Melody

Author’s intro:Su Shi was a writer, poet, artist, calligrapher, pharmacologist, and one of the major poets of the Song Dynasty (960-1279). His courtesy name was Zizhan and his pseudonym was Dongpo Jushi. Besides his renowned poetry, his other extant writings are of great value in the understanding of 11th century Chinese travel literature.

Mid-autumn of the Bing Chen year, having been drinking happily overnight, I’m drunk, so I write this poem for memorizing my brother, Zi You.

How long will the full moon appear?
Wine cup in hand, I ask the sky.

I do not know what time of the year
it would be tonight in the palace on high.

Riding the wind, there I would fly,
yet I’m afraid the crystalline palace would be
too high and cold for me.

I rise and dance, with my shadow I play.
On high as on earth, would it be as gay?

The moon goes round the mansions red
through gauze-draped window soft to shed
her light upon the sleepless bed.

Why then when people part, is the oft full and bright?

Men have sorrow and joy; they part or meet again;
The moon is bright or dim and she may wax or wane.
There has been nothing perfect since the olden days.

So let us wish that man
will live long as he can!
Though miles apart, we’ll share the beauty she displays.

(翻译: 许渊冲)