Mooring at Night by Maple Bridge

As the moon falls from a frosty sky, a crow cries
On the shadowy banks in the River Maple, fishing boats glitter with torches
Outside Gusu city, at Hanshan (Cold Mountain) Temple,
On my boat, the midnight bell rings for me.

The frosty night was inky black

I was looking for a poem for November and came across this charming but melancholy piece by Tang poet Zhang Ji (張繼, 712-790). It reminds me of English poet, writer, and Anglican cleric’s great sonnet, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

His bronze statue can be found at the Maple Bridge in modern day Suzhou (Gusu).

Zhang Ji

Our new poet Zhang Ji is an enigma, sometimes confused with a later Tang poet of the same name. This Zhang Ji was born in Hubei province. He failed the Imperial examinations twice, before passing the examination on his third attemept in 753. Some have speculated that he wrote the poem after failing the examination. An argument could be made that he wrote it in 753 after passing the examination. He was then a lonely traveler on his way down the Yangtze, heading to Shanghai, then by boat north to the Imperial capital at Chang’an.

Chinese and Pinyin

fēng qiáo yè bó
yuè luò wū tí shuāng mǎn tiān
jiāng fēng yú huǒ duì chóu mián
gūsū chéng wài hánshān sì
yè bàn zhōng shēng dào kè chuán

枫桥夜泊
月落乌啼霜满天
江枫渔火对愁眠
姑苏城外寒山寺
夜半钟声到客船

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