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The Selected Poems of T'ao Ch'ien



Drinking Wine





I live here in a village house without

all that racket horses and carts stir up,


and you wonder how that could ever be.

Wherever the mind dwells apart is itself


a distant place. Picking chrysanthemums

at my east fence, I see South Mountain


far off: air lovely at dusk, birds in flight

returning home. All this means something,


something absolute: whenever I start

to explain it, I forget words altogether.






Too poor to hire help, we're being taken

over by a wilderness tangle of trees. All


silence, birds drifting clear skies and

isolate silence, there's no sign of others.


Time and space go on forever, but who

lives even to a hundred? Months and years


tighten, bustling each other away, and my

hair was already turning white long ago.


If we don't give up failure and success,

that promise we hold just turns to regret.








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.


his 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.

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