Tao Qian — Returning to Live in the South 5

Returning to Live in the South 5

Tao Qian

365-427 CE
(translated by William P. Coleman)

Disappointed, distressed, on a lone cane I come home
over a rugged path passing some bushes along a curve.
A mountain stream, clear and shallow,
is there to wash my feet.
I could strain a pot of new-ready wine
and, with a single chicken, invite my neighbors.
The sun enters a room that’s dark,
where bramble firewood makes do for lighted candles.
Delight comes, and the night-sadness is short:
the dawn already reaches back into the sky.

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 — on pp. 166-7 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.

See the FAQ and the external links at Chinese Poems, a beautiful resource with many poems.

more Chinese poetry translations in this blog More Chinese poetry translations in this blog.
more Chinese poetry translations in this blog Home page for my Tao Qian translations.

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