'Clearing at Dawn' by Li Po

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The fields are chill, the sparse rain has stopped;
The colours of Spring teem on every side.
With leaping fish the blue pond is full;
With singing thrushes the green boughs droop.
The flowers of the field have dabbled their powdered cheeks;
The mountain grasses are bent level at the waist.
By the bamboo stream the last fragment of cloud
Blown by the wind slowly scatters away.

Li Po
tr. Waley

Editor 1 Interpretation

Clearing at Dawn by Li Po: A Masterpiece in Chinese Poetry

Li Po is one of the most celebrated poets of Chinese literature, and his works continue to inspire readers and scholars alike. His poem "Clearing at Dawn" is a timeless masterpiece that captures the essence of nature and human emotions. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the meaning, language, and literary techniques used in this poem.

Background and Context

Before we analyze the poem, it's important to understand the historical and cultural context in which it was written. Li Po lived during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), regarded as a Golden Age of Chinese poetry. He spent most of his life wandering from place to place, seeking inspiration from nature and human experiences. His poems often reflect his personal struggles, societal issues, and a deep appreciation for the beauty of the natural world.

"Clearing at Dawn" was written during one of Li Po's travels, where he came across a secluded mountain valley in the early morning. The poem describes the serene atmosphere of the valley, the beauty of the surrounding landscape, and the poet's feelings of loneliness and longing. It was later included in his anthology "The Complete Tang Poems," which became a significant work of Chinese literature.

Literary Analysis

Form and Structure

"Clearing at Dawn" is a five-line poem, also known as a quintain, written in Chinese quatrain style. The poem follows a simple syllable count of 5-7-5-7-7, which is typical of Chinese poetry. The lines flow smoothly, creating a natural rhythm that reflects the peaceful atmosphere of the valley. The poem has a distinct structure, with the first four lines describing the scenery and the last line expressing the poet's emotions.

Language and Imagery

Li Po's choice of words and imagery in "Clearing at Dawn" is impeccable. He paints a vivid picture of the mountain valley, using simple yet powerful words that evoke a sense of tranquility and serenity. For instance, the first line, "The fields are chill, the sparse rain has stopped," creates a cold and quiet atmosphere that prepares the reader for the coming dawn. The second line, "The colours of Spring teem on every side," vividly describes the blooming flowers and the rejuvenation of nature.

The imagery used in the poem is also noteworthy. Li Po's descriptions of the landscape are both beautiful and poetic. For example, he writes, "With leaping fish the blue pond is full" to depict the richness of the natural environment. Another striking image is "A thousand mountains, no bird's song," which conveys a sense of desolation and loneliness.

Themes and Interpretations

"Clearing at Dawn" is a poem that touches upon several important themes, including nature, beauty, loneliness, and longing. The poem celebrates the beauty of nature and the cycle of life, as evidenced by the blooming flowers and the leaping fish in the blue pond. At the same time, it also reflects the poet's feeling of loneliness and separation from the world, which is highlighted by the absence of bird songs and human voices.

The poem can also be interpreted as a metaphor for the human experience. The dawn symbolizes a new beginning, a chance to start afresh, and to leave behind the past. The valley represents the world, full of beauty and wonder, but also of loneliness and longing. The leaping fish and blooming flowers represent the cyclical nature of life and the fleeting beauty of existence. The last line, "I hear a cock crow in the dusk," can be interpreted as a symbol of hope, reminding us that even in the darkest moments, there is always the promise of a new day.

Literary Techniques

Li Po employs several literary techniques in "Clearing at Dawn" to enhance the poem's impact. One of the most prominent techniques is the use of imagery, which creates a vivid picture of the landscape and the emotions it evokes. Another technique is the use of metaphor, which enables the reader to draw connections between the natural world and the human experience. The poem also makes use of personification, giving life to the natural surroundings and making them almost human.


In conclusion, "Clearing at Dawn" is a masterpiece of Chinese poetry that exemplifies Li Po's skill as a poet. The poem captures the beauty and wonder of the natural world while also reflecting on the human experience. Li Po's use of language and imagery creates a vivid and unforgettable image of the mountain valley, and his themes and literary techniques give the poem a profound and timeless significance. "Clearing at Dawn" is a true gem of Chinese literature that will continue to inspire readers and scholars for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Clearing at Dawn: A Masterpiece by Li Po

Li Po, also known as Li Bai, was a Chinese poet who lived during the Tang dynasty. He is considered one of the greatest poets in Chinese history, and his works have been translated into many languages. One of his most famous poems is "Poetry Clearing at Dawn," which is a beautiful and evocative piece that captures the essence of nature and the human spirit.

The poem begins with the speaker waking up early in the morning and going outside to enjoy the beauty of the dawn. The first line, "The birds have vanished down the sky," sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker is alone in the quiet of the morning, and the absence of the birds creates a sense of stillness and peace.

As the speaker looks around, they notice the beauty of the natural world. The second line, "Now the last cloud drains away," describes the sky clearing and becoming a deep blue. The third line, "We sit together, the mountain and me," personifies the mountain and creates a sense of companionship between the speaker and nature.

The fourth line, "Until only the mountain remains," is a powerful statement that emphasizes the importance of nature and the transience of human life. The mountain is a symbol of permanence and stability, while the speaker is a fleeting presence in the world.

The fifth line, "Li Po," is a reference to the poet himself. By including his name in the poem, Li Po is acknowledging his own presence in the natural world and his connection to it.

The final line, "Sitting alone in the silence," is a poignant ending that captures the essence of the poem. The speaker is alone, but not lonely, in the quiet of the morning. They are at peace with themselves and the world around them.

The poem is written in a simple and direct style, but it is full of rich imagery and symbolism. The use of personification and metaphor creates a sense of intimacy between the speaker and nature, and the poem as a whole is a celebration of the beauty and power of the natural world.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of silence. The absence of the birds and the stillness of the morning create a sense of calm and tranquility that is rare in modern life. The poem invites the reader to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the world around them.

Another important theme in the poem is the idea of impermanence. The speaker acknowledges their own mortality and the fleeting nature of human life. The mountain, on the other hand, is a symbol of permanence and stability. By juxtaposing these two ideas, Li Po creates a sense of tension and contrast that adds depth and complexity to the poem.

The poem is also notable for its use of first-person perspective. The speaker is not an objective observer of the natural world, but an active participant in it. By using "we" and "me," Li Po creates a sense of intimacy and connection between the speaker and the natural world.

In conclusion, "Poetry Clearing at Dawn" is a masterpiece of Chinese poetry that captures the beauty and power of the natural world. Li Po's use of imagery, symbolism, and first-person perspective creates a sense of intimacy and connection that is rare in modern poetry. The poem is a celebration of the transience of human life and the permanence of nature, and it invites the reader to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the world around them.

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