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A Gift to Meng Haoran by Li Bai (李白)

Master Meng, my heart hails you
Your fame rises to the heavens
With youth’s impudence, you turned away from the emperor’s kind hand
Choosing woods and clouds, and now, white-haired
Moon drunk, flower-bewitched, a sage of dreams
But deaf to the the Emperor’s ear
How I long to be with you, high in the mountains
To breathe in your sweetness, even here

Original Chinese


吾爱孟夫子 风流天下闻
红颜弃轩冕 白首卧松云

醉月频中圣  迷花不事君
高山安可仰  徒此挹清芬

Notes on Li Bai’s Poem

The title is sometimes translated as A Message to Meng Haoran. The Chinese character 赠 literally translates as  – a gift (noun) and give this to… (verb.)

Alternate Translation

Send As a Gift to Meng Haoran
I love and respect Master Meng
Whose legend is known in heaven and on earth.
At a young age, he forswore the pomp of the palace elite
Free of politics, he lay down among the pine trees and white clouds.

Beneath the moon and frequently drunk, yet ever alert and wise
Lost among the peach blossoms, not a bedeviling bureaucrat.
Admire him, he who towers above the mountains
With respect, I bow to him and his simplicity.

French Translation – Message à maitre Meng

Maître Meng, salue de mon cœur
Dans les cieux votre renommée s’élève
Vous, qui, dans l’impudence de la jeunesse, ont renoncé au service de l’empereur
Choix des pins et des nuages; Et maintenant, les cheveux blancs
Lune ivre, fleur enchanté, une sage de rêves
Mais sourd à l’oreille de l’empereur
Comment j’aimerais être élevé dans les montagnes, avec vous voici
Pour respirer votre douceur, même ici

German Tanslation – Nachricht an Meister Meng

Meister Meng, Herzliche grüße!
Dein Ruhm erhebt sich im Himmel
Sie, der in der Frechheit der Jugend, auf den Dienst des Kaisers verzichtet hat
Leben in Wäldern und Wolken; Und jetzt, weißhaarig
Mond betrunken, blumen verhext, ein Salbei der Träume
Aber taub zum Ohr des Kaisers
Wenn ich nur in den Bergen mit dir war
Um deine Süße zu atmen, auch hier



Somewhere in the back of my mind comes a refrain from ABBA’s song, SOS:

“Where are those happy days, they seem so hard to find. I tried to reach for you, but you have closed your mind. Whatever happened to our love? I wish I understood. It used to be so nice, it used to be so good. So when you’re near me, darling can’t you hear me.”

“S. O. S.”

During the An Lushan rebellion, when war and famine devastated northern China, rebel forces captured the capital, and the Emperor fled south. Li Bai was captured but after a year he escaped. Forgiven by the emperor for remaining too long in the north, he never fully recovered his status; and his poems on a sadder tone.

Why send Meng a message?

Tang poets wrote messages to other poets, to the Emperor, to loved ones back home and to wives and lovers. If one could not be present in person, one could reach out and and touch a kindred spirit with the mind.

It is a nice thing to do.

It is a Cowboy T’ang

Just for fun, imagine a cowboy sending a message to his long lost love. It might go something like this: “Send a message to my heart on the wings of the wind. Let me hear your sweet voice sayin’, ‘You love me again, even though we’re apart, I hold to your memory. Send a message to my heart to keep you here with me.’ ”

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