Title: For Wang Lun ▪ 赠汪伦
Author: Li Bai

Poetic Form: júejù 绝句

Apologies, individual character links no longer available for this poem...

1. (李 + 白) + (乘 + 舟) + (将 + 欲 + 行)
    (Li + Bai) + (to ride + boat) + ([future] + about to
        + to go
    gloss: Li Bai is in the boat, about to depart

2. (忽 + 闻) + (岸 + 上) + (踏 + 歌 + 声)
    (suddenly + to hear) + (bank + on) + (to tread +
       song + sound)
     gloss: Suddenly hears the sounds of stamping
     and singing on the shore

3. ((桃 + 花 + 潭) + 水) + (深 + (千 + 尺))
    ((peach + flower + lake) + water) + (deep +
      (thousand + feet))
     gloss: The water of Peach Blossom Lake is one
     thousand feet deep

4. (不 + 及) + (汪 + 伦) + (送 + 我 + 情)
    (not + to reach) + (Wang + Lun) + (to see off +
      me + affection)
    gloss: It is not as [deep] as Wang Lun's affection
    as he comes to see me off


For Wang Lun
translation by Jessica Alexander ©

Li Bai, aboard, prepares to go,
Suddenly hears stamping and song at water's edge.
Peach Blossom Lake is five hundred fathoms deep...
Though deeper still is the emotion of Wang Lun's farewell to me.


Farewell poem to Li Bai’s friend, Wang Lun, who lives near the Peach Blossom Lake and would often entertain the poet when he would come to visit.  In this poem, Li Bai is bidding him farewell as he prepares to return to Qiupu (today, Guichi in Anwei province).
The first half of the poem seems to be a third party narration.  Line 1 shows us Li Bai standing in the boat ready to depart.  Line 2 introduces us to those standing on the water’s edge, but continues to do so from the narrative perspective of Li Bai as he hears singing coming from the bank, which he apparently did not expect (“suddenly”).  Though we do not ever see these people in the poem, meaning we get no visual description of them, their presence imbues the entire poem with their singing and stamping.
The second half of the poem is an expression of the poet’s emotions.  In line 3, the poet finally reveals the place he is leaving (Peach Blossom Lake) by making a connection between the special feature of the attraction (its depth) and the depth of emotion felt by the person he is leaving behind, likening a physical depth for a metaphorical one, inviting the reader to question just how deep Wang Lun’s affection is for Li Bai, as it is only specified as being “greater than 1000 feet”.
Thanks to this poem, “Peach Blossom Lake” became associated with the sorrow of separation.


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