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Poetry Magnum Opus

Moon Faraway Person Thinking


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Looking at the Moon and Thinking of One Far Away




海上生明月, 天涯共此時。

情人怨遙夜, 竟夕起相思。

滅燭憐光滿, 披衣覺露滋。

不堪盈手贈, 還寢夢佳期。



Over the sea the moon

brightens heaven, brings

to separated hearts

thoughts in the night.


It is no darker

though I blow out my candle.

It is no warmer

though I put on my coat.


So I leave my message

with the moon,

and I go to my bed

hoping for dreams.


-- 張 九 齡 Zhang Jiuling



Translator's note: I hope your computer is able to read and transmit the Chinese characters of the original poem, if for no other reason than that they are so concise and elegant! A difficulty arises in all translations from the Chinese (or Japanese) in that the brevity and directness of the style causes all kinds of technical problems in attempts to reproduce the content in English while adhering to the driving spirit of the poem. The mental worlds surrounding our varied languages and ways of thinking are different, of course, and never more so than when dealing with faraway cultures. Although this poem was composed more than a thousand years ago it is as fresh as the day it was written! You will notice there are three 4-line stanzas in the translation whereas the original is composed of 4 separate stanzas made up by each horizontal line divided into two sections of five Chinese characters apiece. The first stanza of the translation actually combines the first two stanzas of the original, i.e the first half of the poem. This was done on purpose by me in order to maintain the velocity as well as the content of the poem ... and if you can understand that, welcome to the world of translation!

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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I would like to add to the translators comments if only to revisit my contention that a good poet has to be highly competent, by nature, i.e., some highly specific built in "ear" to know exactly the only right word to be used at every moment during the composition of the poem.


In this case, I am much impressed by that the translator is in command of both languages. Otherwise thr rendition of the poem in English could not be as devastatingly impressive as it is.

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