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Returning to Live in the Countryside 1

Tao, Yuan-ming (365-427 CE)


I was out of tune with crowds in my youth.
My nature is to love mountains.
It was my misfortune to be trapped in corrupt jobs by mistake
And to be away from home for thirteen years 2.
A trapped bird misses its home forest.
A fish in a pond longs for the lake where it used to live.
I cultivate the wasteland to the south
And live a simple life by farming.
Now I have a few acres of fields
And eight or nine thatched huts.
Elm and willow trees shade my back yard.
Peach and plum trees stand in front of my door.
The mist obscures the distant village.
A wisp of smoke rises from neighborhood kitchens.
Dogs bark in a deep valley.
Roosters crow from the top of a mulberry tree.
There is no worldly clamor around my home.
I feel peaceful and at ease.
Having been shut in a cage 3 for a long time,
I am finally able to return to nature.


There are few social activities in which I need to engage
While living in the countryside.
An obscure village has little traffic.
I often close my door even in the daytime.
Worldly affairs are far from my mind.
I often dress casually,
Travel to neighboring villages,
And visit my friends.
We discuss our crops rather than worldly affairs.
Our hemp and mulberries have grown well.
Our fields expand over time.
I often worry about frost and hail.
Our crops will wither like grass if they fall.


I raise beans at the foot of Lu Mountain.
The bean seedlings are sparse,
While the weeds are abundant.
I clear refuse and hoe weeds from dawn to dusk.
Carrying the hoe on my shoulder,
I return home with the moonlight.
The path is narrow and the trees are tall.
My clothes become damp with the evening dew.
Wet clothes are not worth mentioning
If I can live a life according to my principles.


Having not visited mountains and rivers for a long time,
I often stroll in the countryside to enjoy nature.
Now I lead my children and nephews by hand
To walk through hazel woods and desolate ruins.
We pace back and forth among tombs,
Reluctant to part with the dwellings of the past.
There are traces of wells and fireplaces.
Decayed stumps of bamboo and mulberry trees remain.
I ask a lumberjack,
"How are the people who used to live here?"
He replies,
"They are all dead."
Thirty years completely changes the emperor's court or a market.
This saying is true indeed.
Man's life is like a dream.
It will revert to nothing eventually.


Disappointed, I ride a horse home alone,
Passing through a hazel wood on a rugged and winding path.
As I cross a clear and shallow stream,
It washes my feet.
I filter my home-made wine
And invite my neighbors to share a chicken dinner.
After sunset my room becomes dark.
I burn firewood rather than light candles.
We have such a good time that the night seems too short.
Until my guests begin to leave,
I am unaware that the sun has already risen in the east.


1 The following two videos have the same title, "Returning to Live in the Countryside":>
The second video shows how the third of the above poems is sung.

2 In 393, Yuan-ming Tao began to work for the government as the principal of the Academy of Classical Learning at Jiang-zhou City. In 405, he resigned his position as Mayor of Peng-ze City and never worked for the government again.

3 "Cage" refers to "officialdom".