Waking from a Stupor on a Spring Day (春日醉起言志) Li Bai

Life in this world is but a dream,
Why spoil it with work or worry?
So, saying, I was drunk all day long, now
Helplessly lying on the porch at my front door…

Waking from a Stupor on a Spring Day (春日醉起言志), Li Bai

Chinese and pinyin


Chǔshì ruò dà mèng,
húwèiláo qí shēng.
Suǒyǐ zhōngrì zuì,
tuírán wò qián yíng.

Notes on translation

Let this be a lesson to those of you who think it is cool to be drunk. Two more verses follow, which I will finish when my headache goes away:)
empty wine bottle

Cheering Up Oneself – 自遣

Cheering Up Oneself or Self Consolation – 自遣

When I win, I sing loudly, when I lose, I rest promptly
Woes and regrets are the unending way to sorrow
Today, drink and be drunk, this wine is still mine,
If worries come, as worries will, worry not until tomorrow

A win I sing, a loss I am sullen,
Worries and regrets linger far too long.
If there is wine today, then today get drunk,
Worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes.
(Tomorrow there is time enough to worry)


“What Me Worry” would be the title if written by Mad’s Alfred E. Newman.


Luo Yin

Tang poet, Luo Yin, was by all accounts, ugly and difficult to get along with. He had much to complain of. He failed the imperial examinations ten times, and therefore gave himself the pseudonym Yin, meaning “dormant”. So ugly he was, that the following story is told. The imperial court’s grand councilor Zheng Tian had a young daughter who enjoyed Luo Yin’s poems, frequently reading them out loud to her father’s annoyance. He had her attend court and peek out from the curtains at Luo Yin’s ugly face.

She never read another one of his poems.

This poem is translated often by those more competent than myself. The nuances are slight but significant.

Luo’s rhyming pattern is abab. He uses internal repetition of words like today and tomorrow, and sorrow. Line two is a good example, speak out loud and listen – duō chóu duō hèn yì yōuyōu.

The title is most often given as Self Consolation. That works, but it might be more accurate to use, Cheering Up Oneself, a type of toast to a cup of wine.



Zì qiǎn

dé jí gāogē shī jí xiū
duō chóu duō hèn yì yōuyōu
jīnzhāo yǒu jiǔ jīnzhāo zuì
míngrì chóu lái míngrì chóu

hands forming a heart with the setting sun in the background

Note to Self

Note to Self

Looking at my wine, I did not catch sight of the dark night coming
Or the flowers falling down on my gown
Tipsy, in the moonlight I walk along the stream
The birds have yet to come and few are the people

Note to self

Li Bai’s (李白) poem 自遣 is usually translated as “Amusing myself”.

I prefer “note to self” since the first character 自 can be translated as a prefix for self and the second character 遣 is dispatch or letter. Taken together as a compound word, the two characters take on the meaning “Cheer up!” which is close to “Amusing myself”.

Taking the translation of 自遣 as amusing myself as intended, an English language student might wonder if Li Bai meant something sexual. Probably not, probably mere coincidence, but I did come across an alternative meaning of the compound word as defecate. My Chinese is not good enough to confirm this, but it would explain the poet’s need to talk a walk down by the stream.

Why is that Tang poetry so innocent and simple in its beginning, becomes a bit lost on the way to the poet’s meaning?

Poor Li Bai, discharged from his administrative duties, sentenced to death, then spared and exiled, disgraced, Li Bai finds himself on the way to Sichuan and his hometown. Literally and metaphorically, it is the winter of his life. No one is there to accompany him on the way to exile. Winter and the birds will not keep him company. Caught up in his loneliness and wine, he does not notice the dark night as it comes. Then noticing his old friend the moon he goes for a walk down to the stream, a little tipsy, alone, but for the moon.

I leave it to the reader to decide why


Original Chinese




Duì jiǔ bù jué míng, luòhuā yíng wǒ yī, zuì qǐbù xī yuè, niǎo hái rén yì xī


Bring on the Wine


Li Bai’s impassioned request to good friends, Cen Can and Dan Qiu, to drink wine, celebrate life, and make merry. I will let the reader decide if it should be “bring on the wine” or “bring in the wine”.

Li Bai’s 將進酒, is usually translated as “bring in the wine.” Phonetically, it is pronounced “jiāng jìn jiǔ” which might be hard to say if drunk, and maybe that is the point. Li Bai often drank alone or with the moon as his only companion. He must have relished this opportunity to drink with friends.

Sir, have you not seen
The waters of the Yellow River falling from heaven
Rushing to sea, not to return again?
Sir, have you not seen
In the Great Hall, the mirrors that grieve for grey hair
That once, in the morning, like black thread, by evening becomes snow
One’s small accomplishment is one’s joy in life
So, let not a golden goblet be empty and face the moon
Friend, if heaven made me, I must have a use
While I have squandered a thousand pieces of gold, and wait their return
Boil a lamb, butcher an ox, be of good cheer
Three hundred cups, drunk at once
Master Cen,
And you, Dan Qiu
Bring on the wine
While I sing you a song
The cups cannot stop!
All I ask is that you lend me your ear
Bells, drums, delicacies and jade are not expensive enough
Oh, how I wish to be drunk and never sober again
Since the beginning of time, a sage is a single thing
Leaving to those who drink, to leave their names behind
A story is told, how the Prince of Chen held feasts at Pingle
With ten thousand cups, wild with joy
So, why does your host speak of having no money?
Because you must buy it, now directly go, I’ll drink with you
Take my lovely horse
And my furs worth a thousand
Better yet, call the boy let him swap both for the finest of wines
And together we three will erase the cares of ten thousand ages.


Original Chinese characters