‘Three with the Moon and his Shadow’ by Li Bai is a contemplative poem that explores themes of solitude, companionship, and the transformative power of imagination. The speaker, sitting alone with a jar of wine, seeks solace in the presence of the moon and their own dancing shadow.
They declare unity and friendship among themselves, the moon, and the shadow, embracing the joyous moments of revelry and the shared experience of intoxication. The poem reflects on the longing for meaningful connections that surpass mortal boundaries and the beauty found in the transient nature of human relationships.
Three with the Moon and his Shadow Li BaiWith a jar of wine I sit by the flowering trees.I drink alone, and where are my friends?Ah, the moon above looks down on me;I call and lift my cup to his brightness.And see, there goes my shadow before me.Ho! We’re a party of three, I say,–Though the poor moon can’t drink,And my shadow but dances around me,We’re all friends to-night,The drinker, the moon and the shadow.Let our revelry be suited to the spring!I sing, the wild moon wanders the sky.I dance, my shadow goes tumbling about.While we’re awake, let us join in carousal;Only sweet drunkenness shall ever part us.Let us pledge a friendship no mortals know,And often hail each other at eveningFar across the vast and vaporous space!
Explore Three with the Moon and his shadow
The poem ‘Three with the Moon and his Shadow’ by Li Bai portrays the speaker’s solitary drinking session under blooming trees while pondering the absence of companions.
As he drinks alone, he gazes at the moon, perceiving it as a spectator overlooking him. Expressing camaraderie, the speaker addresses the moon, lifting his cup in a toast to its radiance. Simultaneously, the speaker notices his shadow preceding him, resulting in a playful declaration of being a trio comprising himself, the moon, and his dancing shadow.
Acknowledging the moon’s inability to partake in the merriment and his shadow merely mirroring his movements, the speaker emphasizes their collective friendship on this particular night. They are all interconnected—the drinker, the moon, and the shadow. This unity, celebrated amidst the spring season, prompts the speaker to sing joyously while the moon traverses the sky and to dance, accompanied by his tumbling shadow.
Remaining awake, the trio engages in revelry, uniting through the shared experience of intoxication. The speaker proposes a friendship beyond human understanding, pledging to frequently exchange greetings in the evenings across the vast expanse of misty space. The poem’s essence lies in the bonds between the speaker, the moon, and his shadow, as they partake in their respective roles. They find solace and companionship through the transient and intoxicating nature of the encounter.
Structure and Form
The poem ‘Three with the Moon and his Shadow’ by Li Bai does not adhere to a specific form of poetry. It is written in free verse, which is characterized by the absence of a regular meter or rhyme scheme. The poem does not follow a strict pattern of line lengths or syllable counts. Instead, Li Bai employs a more fluid and flexible structure, allowing the poem to flow naturally and convey the desired emotions and imagery.
Li Bai structured his poem ‘Three with the Moon and his Shadow’ in two stanzas. The first stanza consists of eleven lines, while the second is composed of seven lines. This specific structure contributes to the overall organization and impact of the poem. The poet has used the active voice where possible, enhancing the clarity and immediacy of the analysis.
In the first stanza, Li Bai establishes the setting and introduces the speaker’s contemplations. The stanza begins with the speaker sitting by flowering trees, accompanied by a jar of wine. The speaker expresses his solitude and questions the absence of his friends. He then directs his attention to the moon, which the speaker depicts as an active presence looking down on him. In response, the speaker calls out to the moon and raises his cup in a gesture of acknowledgment and celebration.
The second stanza shifts the focus to the speaker’s shadow and further explores the theme of companionship. The speaker notices his shadow moving before them, and they declare themselves part of a trio—comprising the drinker, the moon, and the shadow. The speaker highlights the moon’s inability to drink and emphasizes the playful nature of his dancing shadow. He asserts that the three entities—the drinker, the moon, and the shadow—are friends for the night, united in their revelry.
The poem’s overall structure contributes to its coherence and progression of ideas. The eleven-line first stanza allows the establishment of the scene and the speaker’s contemplation of their surroundings. The subsequent seven-line stanza delves deeper into the speaker’s reflections, focusing on the relationship between the drinker, the moon, and the shadow. This structural division adds to the poem’s organization and enhances its thematic exploration of companionship and revelry.
In his poem ‘Three with the Moon and his Shadow,’ Li Bai explores several themes through evocative imagery and contemplative musings. These themes include solitude and the absence of companionship, the beauty and influence of the moon, the transient and playful nature of the shadow, unity and friendship, revelry and intoxication, and the longing for a profound connection beyond mortal understanding. Active voice is used where applicable to enhance clarity and directness.
The theme of solitude and the absence of companionship is evident as the speaker sits alone with a jar of wine, pondering the whereabouts of his friends. He laments, “I drink alone, and where are my friends?” This theme highlights the speaker’s longing for companionship and sets the stage for the subsequent themes explored in the poem.
The beauty and influence of the moon is another theme that emerges. The speaker acknowledges the moon’s presence, describing it as looking down on them. He raised his cup to its brightness, recognizing its power and influence. The moon becomes a symbol of inspiration and a companion in the speaker’s solitude.
The transient and playful nature of the shadow is also explored. The speaker observes his shadow moving before him, and despite its fleeting nature, he declares it as their friend. He emphasizes the shadow’s playful dance, highlighting its role as a lively and dynamic companion.
Unity and friendship are prominent themes throughout the poem. The speaker declares themselves, the moon, and the shadow as a trio, forming a party of three. Despite their differences and limitations, they revel together and affirm their friendship for the night, emphasizing the bond and camaraderie they share.
Revelry and intoxication serve as themes that symbolize escape and unity. The speaker sings and dances, inviting the moon and the shadow to join in carousal. The poem celebrates the joyous and transformative power of intoxication, representing a shared experience that unites the trio.
Lastly, the poem conveys the longing for a profound connection beyond mortal understanding. The speaker proposes a friendship that surpasses mortal limitations, pledging to greet each other across vast and misty space. This theme reflects the yearning for a deeper and eternal connection beyond the transient nature of human existence.
Through these various themes, Li Bai explores solitude, companionship, the moon’s influence, the shadow’s playfulness, unity, friendship, revelry, and intoxication, and the yearning for a profound connection that transcends mortal boundaries.
Poetic Techniques and Figurative Language
In his poem ‘Three with the Moon and his Shadow,’ Li Bai employs various poetic techniques and figurative language to convey his message. These include imagery, personification, metaphor, and symbolism. The poet has used active voice where appropriate to enhance clarity and directness.
- Imagery: Li Bai utilizes striking imagery to paint a visual picture for the reader. He describes sitting “by the flowering trees” and drinking alone, setting the scene of solitude and nature. The image of the moon looking down on the speaker evokes a sense of cosmic observation and presence.
- Personification: This technique is employed as the speaker addresses the moon, calling out and lifting his cup to its brightness. Through personifying the moon, Li Bai creates a sense of interaction and connection between the speaker and the celestial body.
- Metaphor: Li Bai uses a metaphor when the speaker declares themselves, the moon, and their shadow as a “party of three.” This metaphorical representation emphasizes their unity and friendship, despite their inherent differences and limitations.
- Symbolism: This plays a significant role in the poem. The moon symbolizes beauty, inspiration, and a source of companionship for the speaker. On the other hand, the shadow symbolizes transience, playfulness and serves as a dynamic companion. The moon and the shadow represent different aspects of the speaker’s experience and emotions. Additionally, the poem employs symbolism through the use of wine and revelry. Wine symbolizes escapism, joy, and the shared experience of intoxication, highlighting the camaraderie between the speaker, the moon, and the shadow.
With a jar of wine I sit by the flowering trees.
I drink alone, and where are my friends?
Ah, the moon above looks down on me;
I call and lift my cup to his brightness.
And see, there goes my shadow before me.
Ho! We’re a party of three, I say,–
Though the poor moon can’t drink,
And my shadow but dances around me,
We’re all friends to-night,
The drinker, the moon and the shadow.
Let our revelry be suited to the spring!
This stanza begins with the speaker sitting alone with a jar of wine by flowering trees. This opening stanza sets the tone of solitude and introspection. The speaker expresses his longing for companionship, questioning the absence of his friends. This sense of isolation prompts the speaker to seek solace in the natural world and the celestial beings.
The speaker then directs his attention to the moon, perceiving it as an active presence that looks down on him. The moon becomes a symbol of beauty, inspiration, and a source of companionship. The speaker acknowledges the moon’s influence and raises his cup in a toast, creating a metaphorical connection between him and the celestial body. This interaction between the speaker and the moon highlights the speaker’s desire for connection and his yearning for a companion.
The mention of the speaker’s shadow adds a playful and dynamic element to the poem. The shadow becomes a metaphorical companion, moving ahead of the speaker. The speaker exclaims they are a party of three—themselves, the moon, and his dancing shadow.
Despite the moon’s inability to partake in the revelry and the fleeting nature of the shadow, the speaker declares their friendship for the night. This theme of unity and friendship among unlikely companions emphasizes the power of imagination and the ability to find solace in unconventional connections.
The final lines of the stanza call for revelry suitable for springtime and suggest a celebration of life, renewal, and the joyousness of the season. The speaker invites the drinker, the moon, and the shadow to partake in this revelry, emphasizing the shared experience of intoxication and the unity found in fleeting moments.
This stanza conveys a message of finding companionship and solace in the natural world, the imagination, and the transient connections we forge. It highlights the yearning for reference, the power of imagination in creating meaningful relationships, and the joy in shared experiences, even in solitude. The poem captures a sense of longing, celebration, and the temporary nature of human connections.
I sing, the wild moon wanders the sky.
I dance, my shadow goes tumbling about.
While we’re awake, let us join in carousal;
Only sweet drunkenness shall ever part us.
Let us pledge a friendship no mortals know,
And often hail each other at evening
Far across the vast and vaporous space!
In this stanza of the poem ‘Three with the Moon and his Shadow’ by Li Bai, the speaker further develops the theme of unity, friendship, and the desire for a profound connection that transcends mortal boundaries. Through vivid imagery and a sense of celebration, Li Bai conveys a message of everlasting camaraderie and the power of shared experiences.
The stanza begins with the speaker singing, symbolizing an expression of joy and freedom. He proclaims that the wild moon wanders the sky, emphasizing its untamed and unpredictable nature. This imagery evokes a sense of awe and wonder, suggesting that the speaker finds solace in the vastness of the celestial realm.
Next, the speaker introduces the idea of dancing, symbolizing a lively and uninhibited form of self-expression. As they dance, his shadow tumbles about, adding a playful element to the scene. This image reinforces the theme of companionship, as the shadow becomes a dynamic and active presence that mirrors the speaker’s movements.
The speaker then invites the moon and the shadow to join in carousal, emphasizing the unity and shared experience of intoxication. Through this invitation, the poem suggests that in moments of revelry and intoxication, the barriers between beings are dissolved, and a profound connection can be forged. The speaker asserts that only sweet drunkenness will ever part them, implying that these moments of shared celebration create an unbreakable bond.
The stanza concludes with a pledge to establish a friendship that surpasses mortal understanding. The speaker desires a connection that’s beyond the grasp of ordinary humans, invoking a sense of longing for a profound and eternal bond. They envision frequently hailing each other in the evening across the vast and vaporous space. This imagery conveys a sense of distance and separation while simultaneously expressing the speaker’s yearning for a connection that transcends physical limitations.
Overall, this stanza conveys a message of unity, celebration, and longing for a deep and everlasting friendship. It highlights the transformative power of revelry and the desire for connections that go beyond the mortal realm. The stanza evokes a sense of joy, freedom, and the exploration of boundless possibilities in forging meaningful relationships.
The speaker in ‘Three with the Moon and his Shadow‘ is a solitary individual who seeks companionship and connection with the moon and their own shadow. They express their longing for friendship and unity, emphasizing the shared experience of revelry and the desire for a profound connection that transcends mortal boundaries.
The tone in ‘Three with the Moon and his Shadow’ is one of contemplation and longing. The speaker expresses a sense of solitude and questions the absence of their friends, creating a tone of yearning for companionship. However, there is also a tone of celebration and joy as the speaker invites the moon and their shadow to join in the revelry, highlighting the power of shared experiences and the fleeting moments of connection.
The mood of ‘Three with the Moon and his Shadow’ is a blend of melancholy and exuberance. The poem evokes a sense of longing and solitude as the speaker drinks alone and ponders the absence of their friends. However, there is also a mood of celebration and joy as the speaker embraces the companionship of the moon and their shadow, finding solace and unity in shared revelry.
‘Three with the Moon and his Shadow’ by Li Bai is a lyrical poem taking the form of a quatrain. Each stanza consists of four lines, and the poem follows a structured pattern. In terms of genre, it belongs to Chinese classical poetry, specifically the tradition of Tang Dynasty poetry.
If you enjoyed this poem, consider reading some other Lia Bai poems. For example:
- ‘Taking Leave of a Friend‘ is a poem that uses different literary techniques to convey the themes of transience, nature, longing, and friendship.
- ‘Before The Cask of Wine‘ is a beautiful lyric that emphasizes enjoying one’s youthful hours to the fullest as one can’t savor those moments in old age.
- ‘The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance‘ captures the lovelorn yearning of a woman waiting for her lover late at night in a picturesque scene of melancholic beauty.