Custom Search

As Seasons Proceed

Tao, Yuan-ming (365-427 CE)

Prologue

    This poem describes my excursion in late Spring 1. The scenery is delightful. Wearing my spring clothing, accompanied by my shadow, I travel alone. I am both happy and sorrowful 2.

Time proceeds at its regular pace.
It is a fine morning.
Dressed in Spring clothing,
I stroll toward the eastern countryside.
Mountains disperse nearby clouds.
The sky is dimmed by light mist.
The south wind comes to nourish the seedlings.

The expanse of calm water by the ferry crossing
Can be used for rinsing one's mouth or washing one's face.
Distant views provide me great joy.
Happy and carefree,
I raise my wine cup to drink.

When I turn my eyes to the stream,
It reminds me of the story of the Yi River 3,
Where young and old students recited poetry and returned home after class.
I admire Xi Zeng’s indifference to fame and wealth
Either in my dreams or wakefulness.
It is a pity that we live in different eras.
Zeng’s aspirations are too far-reaching to be popularized in our time.

I enjoy ample rest at home either in the daytime or nighttime.
Blossoms and herbs are displayed in rows.
A bamboo grove provides ample shade.
My lute lies across my bed;
Unstrained wine fills half my jug.
I lament that the times of peace during Huang-di and Tang-yao's reigns no longer exist 4.

Notes

1 Of the following two videos, the title of the first is "Spring Comes to the Xiang River"; the title of the second is "Spring Excursion":
http://v.guqu.net/guzhengE/10857.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mghmhlc-ME

2 Jia-sui Qiu (c. 1717) of the Qing dynasty said, "In the first two stanzas, Tao describes the Spring scenery and expresses his joy. In the last two stanzas, Tao laments the contemporary corruption by recalling ancient peaceful times. Yuan-ming Tao's love of nature and his worry about state affairs ran parallel without interfering with each other."

3 Confucius asked Xi Zeng "What are your aspirations?" Zeng replied, "In late Spring, I dress in light clothing and visit the Yi River with several old and young friends. We either take a bath in the river or enjoy the breeze on the platform used for praying for rain. Then we recite poetry and go home." Confucius praised Zeng's aspirations. See Section 24, Book 11 in The Analects, Oxford University Press, 2000.

4 Emperor Huang-di (ca. 2690 BCE) and Tang-yao (ca. 2333 BCE) were ancient emperors of China. After Tao resigned his position, he was still concerned with state affairs. His yearning for ancient peaceful times was his indirect critique of contemporary corruption.