Returning to Live in the South 3
(translated by William P. Coleman)
I sow my beans below the southern hills,
but grass flourishes, while bean seedlings are scarce.
Mornings I rise to clear tangled waste space,
then, under the moon, carry my hoe coming home.
The path is narrow, through tall grass under trees;
its evening dew dampens my clothes.
But wet clothes don’t worry me —
not enough to separate me from my dream.
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.
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.