08 December 2006

T'ao Ch'ien

[T’ao Ch’ien, lived 365-427; from David Hinton’s anthology Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China, 2005]

Wandering at Oblique Creek

This new year makes it fifty suddenly
gone. Thinking of life’s steady return

to rest cuts deep, driving me to spend
all morning wandering. Skies clear,

air’s breath fresh, I sit with friends
beside this stream flowing far away.

Striped bream weave gentle currents;
calling gulls drift above idle valleys.

Eyes roaming distant waters, I find
ridge above ridge: it’s nothing like

majestic nine-fold immortality peaks,
but to reverent eyes it’s incomparable.

Taking the winejar, I pour a round,
and we start offering brimful toasts:

who knows where today might lead
or if all this will ever come true again.

After a few cups, my heart’s far away,
and I forget thousand-year sorrows:

ranging to the limit of this morning’s
joy, it isn’t tomorrow I’m looking for.

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