Friday, June 8, 2012

T'ao Ch'ien: a June poem

Reading the Book of Hills and Seas

In the month of June the grass grows high
And round my cottage thick-leaved branches sway.
There is not a bird but delights in the place where it rests;
And I too--love my thatched cottage.
I have done my ploughing;
I have sown my seed.
Again I have time to sit and read my books.
In the narrow lane there are no deep ruts;
Often my friends' carriages turn back.
In  high spirits I pour out my spring wine
And pluck the lettuce growing in my garden.
A gentle wind comes stealing up from the east
And a sweet wind bears it company.
My thoughts float idly over the story of the king of Chou,
My eyes wander over the pictures of Hills and Seas.
At a single glance I survey the whole Universe.
He will never be happy, whom such pleasures fail to please!

-- T'ao Ch'ien --
(Chinese, 365-427)
from Art and Nature: An Illustrated Anthology of Nature Poetry

 Common themes found among the hermit poets of China:  nature, gardening, reading, isolation--a mix of hard work with ploughing and setting seeds and the relaxation with a book or just seeing.  He has friends, but he doesn't encourage them and many find it to hard to visit him.  I suspect they choose their places with this in mind.

Perhaps there's a contrast western hermits who went out into the desert and the Wilderness to focus their lives on God.  But, I don't remember reading about them with a garden for many depended upon the people nearby to feed them or perhaps animals inspired by God fed them.   The focus of the Eastern and Western hermits differed: one solely on the Deity and therefore not on this world and the Eastern hermit on day-to-day living, as well as reading and poetry and the created universe.

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