Untitled Poem by T’ao Ch’ien

Days and months never take their time.
The four seasons keep bustling each other

away. Cold winds churn lifeless branches.
Fallen leaves cover long paths. We’re frail,

crumbling more with each turning year.
Our temples turn white early, and once

your hair flaunts that bleached streamer,
the road ahead starts closing steadily in.

This house is an inn awaiting travelers,
and I yet another guest leaving. All this

leaving and leaving—where will I ever
end up? My old home’s on South Mountain.

translated by David Hinton

from Wandering at Hsieh Creek by T’ao Ch’ien

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. And now, air

fresh and sky clear, I sit with friends
beside a stream flowing far away. Here,

striped bream weave the gentle current,
and calling, gulls rise over the lazy

valley. Eyes wandering distant waters,
straining, I make out Tseng Hill: it’s

meager compared to K’un-lun’s majestic
peaks, but nothing in sight rivals it.

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

Who knows where today leads, or whether
things will ever be like this again?

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

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

translated by David Hinton

Seeing Guests Off at Governor Wang’s by T’ao Ch’ien

Autumn days bitter cold, the hundred plants
already in ruins–now footsteps-in-frost

season has come, we climb this tower to
offer those returning home our farewell.

In cold air shrouding mountains and lakes,
forever rootless, clouds drift. And all

those islands carry our thoughts far away,
across threatening wind and water. Here,

we watch night fall, delighting in fine food,
our lone sorrow this talk of separation.

Morning birds return for the night. A looming
sun bundles its last light away. Our roads

part here: you vanish, we remain. Sad,
we linger and look back–eyes seeing off

your boat grown distant, hearts settled in
whatever comes of the ten thousand changes.

translated by David Hinton

untitled poem by T’ao Chien

Days and months never take their time.
The four seasons keep bustling each other

away. Cold winds churn lifeless branches.
Fallen leaves cover long paths. We’re frail,

crumbling more with each turning year.
Our temples turn white early, and once

your hair flaunts that bleached streamer,
the road ahead starts closing steadily in.

This house is an inn awaiting travelers,
and I yet another guest leaving. All this

leaving and leaving–where will I ever
end up? My old home’s on South Mountain.

translated by David Hinton

from Drinking Wine: 7 by T’ao Ch’ien

Color infusing autumn chrysanthemums
exquisite, I pick dew-bathed petals,

float them on that forget-your-cares
stuff. Even my passion for living apart

grows distant. I’m alone here, and still
the wine jar soon fills cups without me.

Everything at rest, dusk: a bird calls,
returning to its forest home. Chanting,

I settle into my breath. Somehow, on this
east veranda, I’ve found my life again.

translated by David Hinton