Sad Boy Hours consist of a large time slot of a male’s expression of his sad feelings. This is common over a relationship or hidden depression stage for men to encounter this time. Although this is a modern term, old Chinese Poets have encountered this time slot as well. One of the biggest examples of Sad Boy Hours during the Tang dynasty is Li Bo (also commonly known as Li Bai or Li Po).
Li Bo hit the jackpot in my eyes of career opportunities. Bo used his connections of higher officials and gained life experiences.
His first experience was accepting a post at the Hanlin Academy, an institute founded by Emperor Xuanzong to support unconventional intellectuals and literary talents. This inspired his own work but was short-lived due to his drinking habits. His next experiences of joining a cause with a rebellious prince ultimately led to his downfall, resulting in exile for his participation. During his exile, Li Bo wrote poetry that projected his views and life. His poetry is relative to the Tang time period, which treats the world at hand. His work was renown and often showed the literary strengths of bold and colloquial language. An amazing poem that stands out to me is Drinking Alone with the Moon. This poem by the title can reflect a relatable sense of drinking and loneliness. Poetry often exhibits strong emotions, and Bo does this in his poetry by his topics and his word choice.
A pot of wine among the flowers.
I drink alone, no friend with me.
I raise my cup to invite the moon.
He and my shadow and I make three.
The moon does not know how to drink;
My shadow mimes my capering;
But I’ll make merry with them both—
And soon enough it will be Spring.
I sing–the moon moves to and fro.
I dance—my shadow leaps and sways.
Still sober, we exchange our joys.
Drunk—and we’ll go our separate ways.
Let’s pledge—beyond human ties—to be friends.
And meet where the Silver River ends.
The poem begins with the acknowledgment of his loneliness. Where that stems from, is not specified but controls the whole mood of the poem. His feelings can go beyond his own, reflecting on a worldly view of loneliness and despair. His continuous mood, and his drunken state, lead him to question the divine power above the moon. He asks for companionship from something that he knows cannot welcome him that feeling, “moon does not know how to drink” with him. He sulks at the idea of his shadow being his companion, which is another figure that cannot reflect his feelings. There is no real change in mood or tone in Bo’s poem, beginning and ending on a sorrowful note. Bo expresses his anguish and clings on to it till the end, as he is drunk and sad. The internal emotions are heightened from his drunk state, resulting in a sense of wild and despaired speech. He feels this about his world and the loneliness that it brings.
However not only does this poem exhibits loneliness, but there is also artistry in his words. The relationship with the moon is vivid and sad. He uses metaphors to compare his sad surroundings. The need for a connection, a human connection, can make a person very vulnerable. This can be seen in the line of ‘He and my shadow and I make three’ Bo is counting his shadow to make up for the friends he does not have. Although this is problems Bo’s doing as he was exiled in his later years, he has able to reflect that loneliness in a world view that doesn’t even seem like exile. If I wouldn’t have known he was exiled, I would have just assumed he was a lonely man. His despair is transformative through modern times.
Many modern poets have done translations of his work. Famous poets like Ezra Pound, create their own version of Bo’s poems to reflect his emotion through modern time. The translations of Bo’s works allow the literary influence to be continuous through time.
The modern feeling of loneliness is very prevalent now as the pandemic of our time has felt like isolation for some. Isolation can cause a person to try to find another connection of some type. Drinking alone combined with being isolated can lead to that same vulnerability that Bo experienced with the moon as well. I know we all have had a drink and thought about the things in our life that eat us up inside. If you have not then you are very lucky. If you have then you are not alone. Even legendary poets feel the same way as we do now after hundreds of years. Emotions are transcendent and poetry will always be an outlet for writers to express themselves in every way. That is the joy in creativity, but also the pain in the butt of our troublesome lives. Hopefully, we can move on and not cling to those sad boy thoughts, unlike Bo.
Puchner, Martin, et al. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.