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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.


孟浩然 〔唐代〕












This is a poem depicting the twilight of the autumn river. It is a famous scenic piece among the five wonders of the Tang Dynasty. The author thought of the past when he docked the boat at the misty riverside, so he took the boat berthing at dusk as his destination to express his feelings, and wrote the author’s thoughts on the journey.
In the first sentence, “moving a boat” means moving a boat closer to the shore; “Berth” means to stop the ship for the night. The boat docked at the edge of a small foggy island in the river. This is the point on one side, and the other side is also prepared for the following lyrical scenery.
“Guests worry about new things at dusk”. “Sunset” is obviously related to the above words “berthing” and “smoking”, because the ship needs to stay at dusk; Because of the sunset, the river was misty. At the same time, “sunset” is the reason why “visitors are worried about the new”. “Guest” refers to the poet himself. If we follow the old style of “starting, inheriting, turning and combining”, this second sentence will combine the two meanings of “inheriting” and “turning” in one sentence, which is also a rare pattern. Why does the “sunset” lift up the “customer worries about the new”? We can read a paragraph in the Book of Songs: “The gentleman is in service, but I don’t know its time. What a hell is it? The chicken is sitting in the barn, and the day is coming. The sheep and cattle are coming down, and the gentleman is in service. Why not think about it?” (Wang Feng, A Gentleman in Service) This is about a woman who misses her husband when the sun sets, the chickens enter the cage and the cattle and sheep return to the corral. In this way, we can understand the feelings of travelers at this time? Originally, when the boat stopped, we should have a quiet rest for a night to eliminate the fatigue of the journey. However, at the dusk when the birds returned to the forest and the cattle and sheep went down the mountain, the worry of imprisonment suddenly arose.
Then the poet wrote the scene with a couplet, as if to turn a worried heart into the empty and lonely world. So Shen Deqian said, “The second half of the painting is about the scenery, while the guests are worried about themselves.” The third sentence says that at dusk, the sky is vast and the wilderness is boundless. If you look at it, the sky in the distance is lower than the trees nearby. “Low” and “open” are interdependent and set off each other. The fourth sentence says that the night has come, and the bright moon hanging high in the sky is reflected in the clear river water, so close to the people in the boat, and “near” and “clear” are interdependent and set off each other. “Trees are low in the wild, and the moon is close to people in the clear river”. This unique scenery can only be appreciated by people in boats. The second sentence of the poem points out that “guests are worried about the new”. These three or four sentences are like that the poet, with a worried heart, has found that there is still a solitary moon so close to him at this moment after a lot of searching in the vast and peaceful universe! The lonely sorrow seemed to find solace, and the poem stopped abruptly.
However, although the words have ended, the meaning has not ended. “The emperor has been living for 30 years, but neither calligraphy nor sword has been successful. The mountains and rivers are searching for Wu and Yue, and the dust and wind are tired of Luoyang” (“The Yue from Luoyang”). The poet once rushed to Chang’an with years of preparation and hope, but now he can only find Wu and Yue in the south with a tone of sadness and indignation. At this moment, he is alone, facing the scene of vast fields, leisurely rivers, bright moon and solitary boat, the melancholy of the confinement trip, the yearning for his hometown, the frustration of his career, the disillusionment of his ideal, the frustrations of life… All kinds of emotions can not help but come to his mind. “The river is clear and the moon is close to people”, this picture shows the clear and calm river water, and the bright moon in the water accompanied by the poet on the ship; But behind that picture is the poet’s sorrow that has flowed into the sea of ideological turmoil with the river. “People are endowed with seven emotions, so they should be sensitive to things; it is natural to feel things and recite their aspirations” (Liu Xie, Literary Mind Carving Dragon · Ming Poetry). Meng Haoran’s little poem is just in this kind of “natural outflow” in which the scene is born together, thinking and context are harmonious, showing a kind of artistic beauty with natural charm, light taste, and implicit but not exposed.
This poem first writes about the night stay in captivity, and then narrates the day and night to add sorrow; Then he wrote that the universe is vast and peaceful, and the moon is more intimate with people. One concealment and one appearance form a special artistic conception. Although there is only one word of sorrow in the poem, the poet’s inner sorrow is vividly written. However, the wild river is clear and the autumn scenery is vivid.

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