T'ao Poems, Translated in a Simplified Classical Form

Translated from "T'ao Yuan-Ming Chi"

Yogi C. M. Chen

I. On Returning to Nature

Even when young, I had no vulgar interest!
To love hills and mountains is my natural must!
However, by mistake, for thirty years long,
I did fall into the worldly net of dust!
But the fish in tank remember the ocean,
And the birds in cages remember the forest;
So do I break ground in the southern wasteland,
Return to my innocence and do my best!
Work on ten acres I do myself engage,
Make some eight or nine rooms and form a cottage!
I move all willows and elms to shade the thatch,
Peaches and plums are close to door without storage.
Villages seem far away but are one li,
Their cooking smoke and floating light I can see!
Sometimes a dog barks but only from deep down lane,
Sometimes a rooster crows from my mulberry tree!
Into my silent courtyard, no one can track dust,
My void rooms are occupied only by quiet,
The vulgar worldly cage itself has to rust,
I'm glad to return to nature, My Almighty!

I have little to do with my countrymen,
No noise of car and horse sound in my lane.
During the day, I shut my brushwood door,
In my quiet rooms no dusty thoughts remain!
At times I find some neighbor to follow,
Parting high grass, we walk and say hello.
Even meeting, don't we talk at random,
Speaking of how hemp and mulberry grow?
Keeping them growing day by day,
I clear a little more land and way.
May they not be like that tangled grass,
Nor meet frost and hail to decay.

I planted beans beneath the southern hills,
While the grass is thick, shoots are sparse still!
At dawn I pull up the weeds and tares,
Come home with hoe in moonlight at will!
The path is narrow, but grass high,
Night dew drenches my clothes so nigh,
My clothes are wet, I don't mind,
It makes my wish not fail thereby!

Long I have loved to stroll among the hills,
And take my pleasure roaming all the fields.
Now I hold hands with my nieces and nephews,
Passing the hazels, treading the wastes untilled,
Wandering admist the hills and mounts,
Unwilling to pass houses of ancients.
Here are vestiges of their old hearth stones,
There rotted stumps of bamboo, like prescience.
I stop and ask the faggot-gather-man,
"What has become of them, now, all these men?"
Faggot-gatherer turns to me and says:
"Once they were dead, that was the end in vain!"
Men lead different lives in the same world.
Indeed I know there is no empty word.
The life of man is like a shadow-play,
Which must in the end, return to the void!

In grief, I return with my staff alone.
I thread its windings--the rugged path along.
A small mountain stream runs clear and shallow,
I wash my feet, let water come upon.
Come home, I filter my newly heated wine,
Made some supper, and ask my friends to feast.
Such joys come I feel the night is too short,
We use candles, going on till dawn in East.

II. On Returning Home

Living in the city of many beings,
I have left my old home six years since,
Today I do come back again at last,
I am very grievous at many things!
Though dikes and boundaries still maintain,
Yet old buildings have their names in vain.
I make the rounds through the old villages,
I find that few of my friends remain.
Retracing slowly the footsteps of the past,
At some lovely places I couldn't pass so fast!
Life mirage is about one hundred, around,
Hot and cold seasons chase each other round.
My fear is that my age of the great rest,
Come before my senility is found.
Let me forget things: bad or fine,
Rather be happy, drink a cup of wine!

III. On Poor Scholars

Myriad tribes have some reliances to maintain,
But the lonely cloud no support obtains.
Dimly, dimly it fades into the sky,
No faintest glimmer will be seen again!
From last fog, opens the light of morning,
Flocks of birds are altogether flying.
Slowly, slowly they fly out from the woods
Where they will return before evening.
Needs much strength to keep old road to follow,
How can he escape hunger tomorrow!
If good friends know this and can't help him,
Lay them aside, why should he so sorrow!

It's sharp and chill, this year is at its end.
I wear summer clothes, take sun as friend.
In the southern garden nothing green is left.
In the northern orchard all the old branches bend.
I have tipped the jar till no drop remains.
Peering in my kitchen no smoke obtains.
Though poems and books are piled about my seat.
Yet I have not enough time to read it!
Living thus is not due to anything wrong.
Why should sad words from my mouth go, come a poem?
What can I rely on to soothe my heart,
Many ancient sages were so lived upon!

Use rope as girdle when Ying was old,
But he was happy, I am so told!
Yuan Hsein's shoes always showed his heels.
But his song had a magic mode!
Though Shun's good examples have left long ago,
After him scholars wanted to follow.
Someone's sleeves couldn't hid his elbow,
Someone even onion soup has no more.
Were not the furs of officers so admired,
To get them wrongfully was not desired!
As Tzu Kung, though talked much more as he liked,
But he could not see Master heart inside.

Poor but happy--guarding humility,
Chien Lou's best examples were set in ancient.
Offered high rank, he would not accept it.
Offered rich gifts, he would not receive it.
Till the day his span of life was exhausted,
His old clothes were the same ones worn-out.
He did know what would be the extremity,
He did not mind, as worldly things shouldn't count.
Since he lived ago nigh on a thousand years,
Still his like has never been told to my ears.
Living in each day he had love and faith,
Dying at night without greed but with cheer!

The snow lay deep before Yuan An's door.
His mind, so far away, felt not poor.
When Duke Yuan saw someone's bribery,
He resigned and kept his poverty.
A bed of straw was always warm enough,
Fresh gathered herbs may send the hunger off!
The real pain they suffered was Tao only,
Thirst or cold were not what he thought of.
Though, poor and rich always fight each other,
When Tao prevails there was nothing to bother,
The utmost merits will crown the whole state,
The chastity light shines hither and thither!

Many grasses grew round his house,
Chung Wei loved his poor abode.
Cut off voice from worldlings' mouth,
But his poems were very good!
In the world who knew him, there was none.
Except one scholar named Liu Kung!
Why did such person live alone,
Few had much with him in common!
He just delighted with his own work,
Thought not how destiny to follow.
I too am stupid, at world-things look,
But I admire such a pure fellow!


by C. M. Chen

For two thousand years I'm behind the age!
These modern people do not know their own stage!
They advance and advance again, so far,
And never know what was the Ancient Sage!

(That was why I translated these holy examples of Ancient Sages in hope that some readers may follow them.)

[Home][Back to main list][Back to Chenian][Go to Dr. Lin's works]