Also Reading: THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF CHINESE POETRY, co-edited by Wu-Chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo

A poem by T’ao Ch’ien (365 – 427), also known as T’ao Yuan-ming. He was born near modern Kiangsi.

On Returning to My Garden and Field

When I was young, I did not fit into the common mold,
By instinct, I love mountains and hills.
By error, I fell into this dusty net
And was gone from home for thirteen years.
A caged bird yearns for its native woods;
The fish in a pond recalls old mountain pool.
Now I shall clear the land at the edge of the southern wild,
And, clinging to simplicity, return to garden and field.
My house and land on a two-acre lot,
My thatched hut of eight or nine rooms —
Elms and willows shade the eaves back of the house,
Peach and plum trees stand in a row before the hall.
Lost in a haze is the distant village,
Where smoke hovers above the homes.
Dogs bark somewhere in deep lanes,
Cocks crow atop the mulberry trees.
My home is free from dust and care,
In a bare room there is leisure to spare.
Long a prisoner in a cage,
I am now able to come back to nature.

About the poet:  T’ao’s father was a district official, but during his youth the family fortunes declined and, after several frustrating attempts to secure an appointment, he gave up all worldly ambitions and spent the remaining years of his life as a gentleman farmer.

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