Thursday, November 21, 2013


A Life of Retirement

Poem by T'ao Ch'ien (365-427), tr. by Arthur Waley in A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1919), p. 103:
Shady, shady the wood in front of the Hall:
At midsummer full of calm shadows.
The south wind follows summer's train:
With its eddying puffs it blows open my coat.
I am free from ties and can live a life of retirement.
When I rise from sleep, I play with books and harp.
The lettuce in the garden still grows moist:
Of last year's grain there is always plenty left.
Self-support should maintain strict limits:
More than enough is not what I want.
I grind millet and make good wine:
When the wine is heated, I pour it out for myself.
My little children are playing at my side,
Learning to talk, they babble unformed sounds.
These things have made me happy again
And I forget my lost cap of office.
Distant, distant I gaze at the white clouds:
With deep yearning I think of the Sages of Antiquity.

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