Drinking Wine

      by Tao Yuanming (Tao Qian)     +     +     +

Plucking chrysanthemums along the East fence;
Gazing in silence at the southern hills;
The birds flying home in pairs
Through the soft mountain air of dusk—
In these things there is a deep meaning,
But when we are about to express it,
We suddenly forget the words.


Quoted from The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts, New York: Vintage Books, 1951, page 113, where the poem and translation are both uncredited. For me, this poem speaks of what haiku does not have few enough words to say.


I pluck chrysanthemums under the eastern hedge,
Then gaze long at the distant summer hills.
The mountain air is fresh at the dusk of day:
The flying birds two by two return.
In these things there lies a deep meaning;
Yet when we would express it, words suddenly fail us.


Arthur Waley, translator. A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1919.