(translated by William P. Coleman)
I’ve made my home among people,
yet I hear no noise of cart horses.
You ask how am I able to do that?
A heart in a far place seeks its own.
I pick chrysanthemums from the east hedge
and gaze, at leisure, on South Mountain.
In this mountain air, day is beautiful — and night too;
birds fly out, then return together.
These facts all have a clear meaning;
I want to argue for my points, but already forget to speak.
I found the Chinese text and an English translation of this poem — along with the word-by-word literal translation I used to create this one — at Chinese Poems.
Similar resources are on pp. 157-159 of Greg Whincup’s book The Heart of Chinese Poetry, Anchor Books, 1987; ISBN 0-385-23967-X.
Also pp. 168-9 of Wai-Lim Yip’s book Chinese Poetry: an Anthology of Major Modes and Genres, Duke University Press, 1997; ISBN 0-8223-1946-2.
The grammar of Chinese allows poets to leave interpretive choices open, and it’s an unattainable ideal of translating to bring out possibilities without closing others. I try to use my sense of English to at least intrigue you. If I’ve succeeded, it’s best — even if you don’t know Chinese, which I don’t either — to follow up at the source I cite above and see the original word-by-word translation from which I worked. It’ll be richer than what I’ve given you. To understand the poem best, try to construct your own translation.
More Chinese poetry translations in this blog.
Home page for my Tao Qian translations.