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Poetry of
 Tao Qian (Tao YuanMing)  
[Tao Ch'ien (Tao Yuan-Ming]


( )

Returning to Live in the Country - 1 of 5
    
Young, I was always free of common feeling.
It was in my nature to love the hills and mountains.
Mindlessly I was caught in the dust-filled trap.
Waking up, thirty years had gone.
The caged bird wants the old trees and air.
Fish in their pool miss the ancient stream.
I plough the earth at the edge of South Moor.
Keeping life simple, return to my plot and garden.
My place is hardly more than a few fields.
My house has eight or nine small rooms.
Elm-trees and Willows shade the back.
Plum-trees and Peach-trees reach the door.
Misted, misted the distant village.
Drifting, the soft swirls of smoke.
Somewhere a dog barks deep in the winding lanes.
A cockerel crows from the top of the mulberry tree.
No heat and dust behind my closed doors.
My bare rooms are filled with space and silence.
Too long a prisoner, captive in a cage,
Now I can get back again to Nature.

Tr. Tony Kline
Chinese text

Reading the Classic of Hills and Seas - 1 of 13
    
In the summer grass and trees have grown.
     Over my roof the branches meet.
Birds settle in the leaves.
I enjoy my humble place.
Ploughing’s done, the ground is sown,
Time to sit and read my book.
The narrow deeply-rutted lane
Means my friends forget to call.
Content, I pour the new Spring wine,
Go out and gather food I’ve grown.
A light rain from the East,
Blows in on a pleasant breeze.
I read the story of King Mu,
See pictures of the Hills and Seas.
One glance finds all of heaven and earth.
What pleasures can compare with these?

Note: King Mu (1001-947BC) of the Chou Dynasty dined with the Queen of the Immortals, Si Wang Mu, in the Western Paradise (among the Kun-lun mountains of Tibet). There she tended the garden where the peach-tree grew that supported the Universe. Her Paradise was that of exalted purity, the jade or pearl mountain, entered through a golden door. The peaches conferred immortality. She later visited Emperor Wu Ti of Han (r.141-97BC) riding on a white dragon, gave him a peach from the tree, and taught him the secrets of eternal life. Wu built a tower with a golden vase on its summit to collect the pure dew that dripped from the stars.

Tr. Tony Kline
Chinese text

Begging for Food
    
The pangs of hunger drove me from my home;
with no idea of where to go
I travelled on for miles
until I reached a village,
knocked on the nearest door,
blurted out some clumsy words.
    
The owner understood my need
his warmth dispelled my shame
that I'd come empty-handed.
    
We played and sang till sunset,
the wine-cups often tilted,
with the pleasure of new-found friends
we chanted and composed verses.
    
I remember the story of the washerwoman. *
Ashamed that I lack the skills of general Han,
how can I show my gratitude?
I can only repay him in the world to come.
    

* When young and starving, Han Xin was shown kindness by an old washerwoman who brought him food. When he later became a great general, he repaid her with a fortune in gold.

Tr. Mike Farman
Chinese text

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