Mooring on the River at Jiande

A rocking boat moored on a misty bank
The parting day brings new worries
In the distance the heavens droop behind the trees
The moon is a close friend
on Blue River

Sù jiàn déjiāng

Yí zhōu bó yān zhǔ
Rì mù kè chóu xīn
Yě kuàng tiān dī shù
Jiāngqīng yuè jìn rén



Stay Overnight on the Tonglu River

Meng Haoran followed up his poem about mooring on the Blue River with a similar poem, Stay Overnight on the Tonglu River, Write to My Old Guangling Friends. Guangling in the title refers to a district in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province.Weiyang, referred to in the second stanza is near the capital of Chang’an. Jiande is our familiar city on the river which is given the name Tonglu, rather than Xin’an, its name according to Google Maps. NOt that it matters, but Meng Haoran is likely giving the river the name of Tonglu County through which it flows, east of Jiande.

Mountains at dusk, melancholy monkeys howl
Blue river, restlessly flows all night long.
Wind rustling through the leaves on the riverbanks
Moonlight shines on one solitary boat.

Jiande is not my home
It’s Weiyang where I miss old friends.
Both eyes still shedding tears
In this distant western place.

The River is as Blue as the Sky

Who has not stood at a river bank in the evening and watch the heavens sink below the trees? The water is like a mirror reflecting the sky in all its changing colors. Then as the sun sets, the water turns a deep blue the color of the evening sky. When the full moon rises on the horizon, it is so close one can touch it, lile a close friend?

Meng Haoran has stopped for the evening at Jiande (Déjiāng, 德江) in Hangzhou, the western part of Zhejiang Province. Meng has moored his boat along the misty bank, several miles downstream from Qiandao Lake. Jiāngqīng, 江清, Blue River in the last line is a reference to the river’s sky blue color at the setting sun. Though not identified, Xin’an is the river’s name.

Moon River, the Moon is my Friend

Tang poets like Du Fu and Li Bai have written endearingly of the moon, but none so beautifully as the older affable Meng Haoran.

Li Bai drinking alone made friends with the moon and his shadow, Li Bai, his shadow, and the moon. So friendly was Li Bai with the moon, the story is told that he tried to embrace the reflection of the moon in the Yangtze River, fell off his boat, and drowned. Du Fu spoke about how a full moon scatters restless gold across the waves.

Modern artists write about the moon. Moon Over Miami, a film and song from 1941, is a classic example. Johnny Mercer’s 1961 lyrics to Moon River captures a similar image for me. “Moon river, wider than a mile / I’m crossing you in style someday…” Fly Me to the Moon, by Bart Howard, sung by Kaye Ballard in 1954, and Frank Sinatra in 1964 is another example.

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