One of the greatest and most influential poets ever to put pen to paper was the Chinese poet Li Bai (also known in the West as Li-Po). Li Bai wrote during the Tang Dynasty; more than 1,000 poems are attributed to him, and his virtuosity and imagery have had a major influence on poets for the past 1,300 years.
Li Bai was celebrated for his use of fantastic imagery, but was perhaps best known for writing about wine and alcohol—or, more precisely, about getting drunk. In fact, at one point Li Bai was part of a group of Chinese scholars who were called the Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup. One of his most famous works, “Waking from Drunkenness on a Spring Day,” goes as follows:
Life in the World is but a big dream;
I will not spoil it by any labour or care.
So saying, I was drunk all the day,
Lying helpless at the porch in front of my door.
Although Li Bai drank as much as he wrote and did a lot of hard living, his death was strangely poetic. One evening, while on a boat on the Yangtze, Li Bai saw a reflection of the moon in the river. He was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the reflection that he tried to embrace it. Li Bai went overboard and drowned.
Li Bai died all for the love of a beautiful image—though one has to wonder how much wine was involved in that boat ride.