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Poem on Strolling in the Moonlight

Artist:
Wen Zhengming (Chinese, 1470–1559)
Period:
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Date:
dated 1543
Culture:
China
Medium:
Album of thirty-two pages; ink on paper
Dimensions:
H. 13 1/2 in. (34.3 cm); W. 10 3/9 in. (26.2 cm) Album: H. 15 7/8 in. (40.3 cm); W. 10 7/8 in. (27.6 cm); D. 1 in. (2.5 cm)
Classification:
Calligraphy
Credit Line:
Gift of John M. Crawford Jr., 1982
Accession Number:
1982.229a–ff
Not on view
Signature: Poem dated 1543:
"The Milky Way stretches across the sky, intensely bright in autumn;
The swooping jade tiles are frosted, at night the hall is cold.
A solitary man, sleepless, moonlight peeking in the window;
With a chuckle, he walks to the balustrade, sobering up from wine.
The empty courtyard is without people; all sounds are stilled.
Only clear shadows cast from dark green trees.
Lifting the hem of his robe, he wades into a flood of moonlight;
The staff he clutches hits hard stones, startling the nestling birds.
Beneath the upturned eaves burns Henan bamboo (speckled bamboo), an allusion to the tears shed by the wives of Shun when that emperor died) in the tripod.
In the deep of night, drifts the fragrance of Ruo blossoms (the Ruo tree that blossoms at night).
The silver goblet with the moon, flowing waves of golden moonlight,
Cleansing my soul of myriad worldly affairs.
Late at night, the Big Dipper revolves, the sky an intense green;
The courtyard is filled with the hue of night; a chill mist rises.
Where is Penglai (the land of the Immortals)? An unfathomable distance.
Purple clouds (suggests presence of the spirit of immortals) float before the balustrade.
Who could summon for me the immortal Li Bo? (Li seems to appear before him).
The Bright moon is eternal; mankind, as well.
Mankind endures, the moon never ends.
For the moment my heart is glad as I face guests with wine cups.
We all wish for moments of leisure such as this,
But don't grieve, (at least) there will always be a bright moon like tonights.
Jiaqing, the cyclical year of gengmao (1543), the 7th month, a full moon, with guests I got tipsy and strolled in the garden; we gazed at the Wutong trees which gave coolness. The moon was like daylight. We sipped the tea I ordered a servant to brew. Returning to sit under the swooping eaves, we were unaware that midnight had arrived.

An ancient said: What is an evening without the moon? What is a place without the shadows of bamboo and cypress?* But there are no people of leisure in our generation.
Because of rising exhileration, I composed this poem and recorded my thoughts. At this time I am 74 sui (73 years old) Zhengming.

*See Su Shi's poem "Zhengtian Su ye yu [A Night Visit to Zhengtian Temple]."
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