The Selected Poems of T'ao Ch'ien
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.