Water Song is a poetic form that accompanies a set musical structure: 95 characters of two sections, nine and ten lines respectively, each with 4 end rhymes. The characters are arranged in a set tonal sequence.
Many Chinese poets have used this structure as the basis of their work: think sonnets. My English translation does not conform to the Chinese rules due to my lack of scholarship. I am but a bilingual poet who wishes to share her love of poetry in her native tongue. I enjoy translating but I loath writing notes so this long-winded one is an exception. I apologise for imposing it on readers who just want to read a poem.
This poem was written in 1076: Su Shi (Su Dong Po 蘇東坡) had prefaced it with a date and remarked that it was mid autumn (when families gather) and he was missing his brother (whom he hadn’t seen for more than six years) so he drank to the moon and became quite drunk before he wrote this poem.
Water Song by Su Shi (1037 – 1101)
How often do we have a bright moon
I raised my wine and asked the sky
Who knows if the castle in heaven is
Enduring other times in another year?
I would let the wind carry me there
But for fear of living in a place of jade
So high and too cold to bear
Dancing with my own shadow
Unlike being amongst mortals!
The moon rounds the pavilion and
Lowers to shine through the screen
Giving me no sleep
I should have no regrets
Why look back to better times?
We are happy or sad, we meet or part as
The moon waxes or wanes, hides or shines
This cadence is decreed through time
I only wish that we all live long and
Gaze at the moon across the miles
(c) Mary Tang 鄧許文蘭 2017