Bright Autumn Moon (after Su Shi)


Bright Autumn Moon (after Su Shi)

Clouds gather on the horizon, but here
it’s clear and cold as the silent Milky Way
and the stone of heaven, turning.
My life, like this night, will not last long.
Where will the bright moon find me next year?

The transliteration on reads:

Mid-Autumn Moon

Sunset cloud gather far excess clear cold
Milky Way silent turn jade plate
This life this night not long good
Next year bright moon where see

Jade was also known as the “stone of heaven” and was considered a bridge
between heaven and earth. It made more sense to me in this context. I’m clearly
taking license here…


59 thoughts on “Bright Autumn Moon (after Su Shi)

  1. Is this your own translation from the original Chinese? It feels like “Bright Autumn Moon” is an original straight from English. What I mean is that the English version feels fresh and original and can stand on its own merits, and not just a translation. I may have said something like this about another of your postings before, but I’m still amazed at the freshness and life brought into this translation. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t read Chinese, so I relied on the transliteration from, and worked out my own version (adaptation rather than translation) from that. Thank you for your kind words. With these adaptations I strive to produce pieces that will reflect the original but still seem new. And of course they must work as poems, too. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hello Robert,

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

    I read your translation of ‘中秋月 Mid Autumn Moon’ by 蘇軾 Su Shi with interest. It reads well as a poem in its own right so I would say it is more of a poem inspired by Su Shi than a translation.

    Mid autumn is a time of celebration in the Chinese calendar. Mid autumn falls on the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar, during a full moon. It’s a time of harvest and a time of family reunion, much like the Thanksgiving.

    The poem in Chinese (as follows) was written by the poet in memory of a brief reunion with his brother. It laments that a good life, like the full moon is not often seen (out of the clouds), so who knows what the future will bring. The term ‘yu pan’, a ‘jade plate’ refers to the moon. The second phrase ‘the silent silver stream (the Milky Way) meanders around the jade plate’ is saying, ‘the distant stars are barely seen around the bright moon’.

    中秋月 Mid Autumn Moon
    (宋)蘇軾 (Song Dynasty) Su Shi


    Thank you for the reminder of Su Shi.

    Mary Tang

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mary, thank you so much for your insight. Yes, my version is not intended as a translation but as a piece inspired from Su Shi. Someday I would love to work with a Chinese language expert to produce real translations. Until that time, I’ll muddle along with my adaptations and celebrate these wonderful poets as best I can.


      • I feel that ‘real translations’ can never be achieved. Such is the difference between languages that we should celebrate that. I do enjoy reading translated poems but I also appreciate the loss of that which I will never know. One must be satisfied to have glimpsed even a small part of so great a thing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That space between languages can’t be filled – from nuance to wordplay to cultural differences and the imposition of one’s feelings – but that loss is of course what makes the attempt so satisfying, if bittersweet.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi setohj, I had to include the original text in my comment because it is the ‘real thing’; no amount of commentary on my part can do justice to it, though every masterpiece deserves a proper frame. Thanks for acknowledging my comment.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I stole all of Ron’s superlatives, that’s why he doesn’t have any. Or at least, he doesn’t have the best, most superlatively greatest ones. Ever. But I do. And, I like this whole series of your engagements with the Greatest Ancientest Most Poets. Are there other translations of it that you read besides the transliteration? Any that you preferred?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: In No-Man’s Land. | The Passions of Patriots: A Novel ~ Christine Plouvier, Indie Author

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