On a Clear Night

A poem on the dedication page of the bookdown book

Yihui Xie 2020-02-11

When I finished writing the bookdown book, I started to think about what I should put on the dedication page. In the spirit of Markdown, the theme of these words should be “simplicity”. Eventually I selected an ancient Chinese poem and a Buddhist’s chant. You won’t see them in the HTML version of the book. They only appeared in the PDF and printed versions.

The reason that they came to my mind again is that I met Kyle Monahan and his partner at rstudio::conf(2020). To my surprise, Kyle was also interested in Chinese poems. When he asked me for recommendations on (simple and beautiful) Chinese poems, I thought of Shao Yong’s 清夜吟 (On a Clear Night):


which I tried to translate to English as:

The moon rises to the center of the night,
And the breeze touches the surface of the pond.
This feeling, unremarkable yet clear and quiet,
Few of us have found.

There isn’t anything remarkable about the moon, night, breeze, or pond. However, if you are a careful observer, you will definitely feel the joy of standing in the middle of a quiet night and appreciate the beauty of these simple scenes. You don’t have to travel five hundred miles to a scenic spot to enjoy the beauty of nature. There may well be enough beauty right in front of your eyes, which you’d easily miss if you cannot control your desire.