Friday, January 17, 2014


Back Home Again!

T'ao Ch'ien (365-427), "The Return" (tr. James Robert Hightower):
To get out of this and go back home!
My fields and garden will be overgrown with weeds—
I must go back.
It was my own doing that made my mind my body's slave
Why should I go on in melancholy and lonely grief?
I realize that there's no remedying the past
But I know that there's hope in the future.
After all I have not gone far on the wrong road
And I am aware that what I do today is right, yesterday wrong.
My boat rocks in the gentle breeze
Flap, flap, the wind blows my gown;
I ask a passerby about the road ahead,
Grudging the dimness of the light at dawn.
Then I catch sight of my cottage—
Filled with joy I run.
The servant boy comes to welcome me
My little son waits at the door.
The three paths are almost obliterated
But pines and chrysanthemums are still here.
Leading the children by the hand, I enter my house
Where there is a bottle filled with wine.
I draw the bottle to me and pour myself a cup;
Seeing the trees in the courtyard brings joy to my face.
I lean on the south window and let my pride expand,
I consider how easy it is to be content with a little space.
Every day I stroll in the garden for pleasure,
There is a gate there, but it is always shut.
Cane in hand I walk and rest
Occasionally raising my head to gaze into the distance.
The clouds aimlessly rise from the peaks,
The birds, weary of flying, know it is time to come home.
As the sun's rays grow dim and disappear from view
I walk around a lonely pine tree, stroking it.

Back home again!
May my friendships be broken off and my wandering come to an end.
The world and I shall have nothing more to do with one another.
If I were again to go abroad, what should I seek?
Here I enjoy honest conversation with my family
And take pleasure in books and cither to dispel my worries.
The farmers tell me that now spring is here
There will be work to do in the west fields.
Sometimes I call for a covered cart,
Sometimes I row a lonely boat,
Following a deep gully through the still water
Or crossing the hill on a rugged path.
The trees put forth luxuriant foliage,
The spring begins to flow in a trickle.
I admire the seasonableness of nature
And am moved to think that my life will come to its close.
It is all over—
So little time are we granted human form in the world!
Let us then follow the inclinations of the heart:
Where would we go that we are so agitated?
I have no desire for riches
And no expectation of Heaven.
Rather on some fine morning to walk alone
Now planting my staff to take up a hoe,
Or climbing the east hill and whistling long
Or composing verses beside the clear stream:
So I manage to accept my lot until the ultimate homecoming.
Rejoicing in Heaven's command, what is there to doubt?
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