Friday, October 18, 2013


After Liu Ch'ai-Sang's Poem

I'd long felt these mountains and lakes
beckoning, and wouldn't have thought twice,

but my family and friends couldn't bear
talk of living apart. Then one lucky day

a strange feeling came over me, and I left,
walking-stick in hand, for my western farm.

No one was going back home: on those outland
roads, farm after farm lay in empty ruins,

but our thatch hut's already good as ever,
and you'd think our new fields had been

tended for years. When valley winds turn
cold, spring wine eases hunger and work,

and though it isn't strong, just baby-girl
wine, it's better than nothing for worry.

Distant — as months and years pass away here,
the bustling world's racket grows distant.

Plowing and weaving provide all we use.
Who needs anything more? Away, ever away

into this hundred-year life and beyond,
my story and I vanish together like this.


translated from the Chinese by David Hinton

The Selected Poems of T'ao Ch'ien (365-427 A.D.)
Copper Canyon Press, 1993

"David Hinton is one of the most impressive of the younger translators of classical Chinese poetry, as his earlier volume of translations from Tu Fu amply demonstrated. Here, he tackles an equally famous but quite different figure, T'ao Ch'ien, the extoller of the delights of country life. As always, his renderings are varied and imaginative while remaining faithful to the spirit of the original."

Burton Watson